Female Labour Force Participation Rate in India

During my undergraduate studies in Economics, I carried out an econometric analysis of the Female Labour Force Participation Rate in India between 2011-2012.

In 2011 India had a population of ~1.2 billion people, with 49% of the population under the age of 25.

A young workforce could make it one of the world’s largest economies.


Women compromised 48.5% of India’s population but their participation to the labour force was only ~25%.

In fact, India was ranked 140 out of 156 countries for Female Labour Force Participation rates.

This is in sharp contrast to the majority of comparable emerging economies.


Could this hinder its future? 

Employment Data Analysis:

What does this show us?

The age at which men and women enter and start to leave the Labour Force is the same for both sexes. However by the age of 25, the percentage of males in the Labour Force jumps to ~90%, whereas for females it's only at ~25%. At their peaks of 40 years old, ~95% of men are in the Labour Force compared to ~30% of females.
While fewer women are in the Labour Force between the age of 15-25, their unemployment rate is lower. For both sexes, unemployment is negligible past the age of 35.

(In the Labour Force means that an individual is actively seeking employment and comprises of both Employed and Unemployed). 

Perceptions of a Female in India:

On a recent trip to India, I observed common perceptions and gender codes for women. These are reflected in the role of women in the workplace and households. Some of these included: honour in the family, resignation, housewife, shame of deflowering, desire for a child and beauty. 

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Variables that influence whether a female in India joins the labour force*:

Positively affected by:

Number of employed household members

Being head of the household



Achieving above secondary level education 

Negatively affected by:

Number of children below the age of 15

Marital status
Islamic religion
Level of education from secondary and below Amount of land owned 

*Calculated using the National Sample Survey (NSS 68th round) carried out from July 2011 to June 2012: which collected data on 101,724 households and 456,999 individuals over the whole of India (NSS are the main source of labour market data and are used for planning and policymaking by the Indian Government) 

Key Findings:

Low levels of female participation rates is correlated with:

- an education gap between males and females
- a gender pay gap
- social acceptance of traditional gender roles

If women were to join the labour force education, social norms (stigma) and location (urban/rural) impact the industry women tend to join. 

Based on the nature of India's growth, the industry that females join impacts the type and rate of development which India will encounter.

Possible design solutions for further research:

Readdressing what is considered as labour. There are currently ‘less visible’ forms of domestic labour which aren’t included as work in the labour force (housework and caregiving) as these types of aren't valued with a monetary wage.

In order to expand women’s labour market opportunities, women’s education levels need to be brought up to par with men’s through government expenditure on women’s education.

- Increasing the incentive for parents to send their daughters to school (e.g. improving quality of schools or monetary benefits - if too effective would require an increase in quantity of schools).
- Improved safety in a young person’s (particularly a girl’s) journey to school. Previous schemes include subsided bicycles.

Social awareness, promotion and acceptance of equal gender opportunities across industries. This should be done with consideration of existing culture and customs.

Focus on platform cooperatives with the growth of the digital workforce, which offers opportunities for females to work at a fair wage and breakdown uniform production for the worker. 

22 girls standing at the back.​

India, 2014.