Millions of women have left the national job market as the Indian economy is now more inclined towards industrialization than agriculture. The Periodic Labor Force Survey (PLFS) 2017-2018 report by NSSO says female participation has fallen by 7 percentages since 2011-12. This amounts to about 2.8 crore fewer women looking for jobs. And this is acute in the working age group of 15-59 years.
The report states that rural female participation rate fell from 49.4 per cent in 2004-05 to 35.8 per cent in 2011-12 and further to 24.6 per cent in 2017-18. In other words, participation of rural women of working age has been halved since 2004-05.
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An expert says it could be because of higher participation in education. But then, the decline is massive. He gives another explanation that fewer women are likely to remain in a shrinking job market where men have the upper hand. It could also be the result of a cultural shift that makes the once-independent village woman a victim of growing social taboos against going out and working.
The report further states that female participation in the urban segment increased by 0.4 percentage points in the six years ending 2017-18, amounting to 12 lakh more job seekers. Among urban female workers, the share of non-agricultural informal sector unincorporated proprietary and partnership enterprises in areas such as manufacturing garments, paper, wood, and straw products etc dropped sharply by 13.6 percentage points.
Another expert said many small enterprises could not recover from the effects of a series of induced economic disruptions. Many had to downsize to survive. And when it comes to cost cutting, unfortunately, the women workers are often considered more dispensable.
Moreover, many experts agree that womenfolk being mostly illiterate or with low levels of education face shortage of work in the home turf and have inhibitions in working as manual labor in the non-agricultural sector.