As an economy transforms from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy, a decline in participation of female labour force is observed.
With an increase in income levels of the households, a woman no longer prefers working as an unpaid worker or a helper or as a casual worker unless the work is remunerative (as in MGNREGA).
However, such opportunities are limited in rural India and as a result women are not finding jobs matching their preference (regular part-time jobs close to their households). Furthermore, with low skill levels, jobs in the non-farm sector are also limited.
These factors perhaps have led to the withdrawal of women from the labour force.
The decline observed in rural female labour force participation is due to a complex mix of several forces working simultaneously.
While the focus is on education and income effect, research reveal that the lack of sufficient non-farm jobs in rural areas has forced women to stay out of the labour market. The wage conditions prevalent in the rural labour market show that female workers have experienced a better hike in wages/salaries; it implies that the gender gap in terms of wages/salaries has started declining. But the opportunities available in rural India which are compatible with their education levels are dying out.
Dedicated efforts in skilling, re-skilling and improving their educational outcomes through infrastructure development, female teacher availability, incentives along with creating an adequate number of favourable job opportunities are necessary to harness their potential.
Considering the constraints experienced by the rural females to enter the labour force, policy initiatives are required to make them economically active. The initiatives should focus on microfinance-supported self-help group-centred activities, which will make them economically active along with handling domestic duties.
—Excerpt taken from Decline in Rural Female Labour Force Participation in India: A Relook into the Causes, Vikalpa: The Journal for Decision Makers
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