Note: This is a report based on the response to a question asked from Minister of State for Labour and Employment in Lok Saba on women’s participation in labour forces in India. It can be accessed here.
“The estimated female labour force participation rate has declined from 42.7% in 2004 to 23.3% in 2018″, Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Minister of State for Labour and Employment said in the Lok Sabha. As per the Periodic Labour Force Survey, the decline has resulted in a 70% dip against women participation in the five years prior to that. “This decline may be attributed to factors like a higher level of participation of women in education, migration etc,” he added.
The central government said they have implemented various schemes like childcare centres, paid maternity leave, providing safety measures to women workers during night shifts, The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, and provision of training through a network of Women Industrial Training institutes. However, claims from scholars suggest that the schemes provided should be more comprehensive and address the gender stereotypes that prevent women from accessing the provisions.
Reports by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) suggest that policymakers should be focusing on improving access and relevance in the schemes. They should be concerned about women’s access to better jobs or ability to start a business, and take advantage of new labour market opportunities as a country grows. A women’s participation should also be constructed with an awareness of the ‘gender-specific’ constraints. Gender-responsive policies need to be contextually developed. “In recent years, policies have been focussing on launching various schemes and incentivise female employment”, said Surabhi Ghai, Research Associate at ICRIER. “However, not much attention has been given to addressing the underlying social norms that compel women to be primary caregivers and disproportionately place the burden of care responsibilities on women,” Ghai said.