Towards higher female work participation in India- what can be done

Azim Premji University,


A continuous and sharp decline in the already depressed female labour force participation rate in India post 2005, particularly in the face of its rapid economic growth raises questions about the inclusiveness of the growth process. The paper recommends a set of policies based on the analysis of the nature and trends of female work participation and a brief analysis of the underlying reasons behind such trends. Women are moving out of the low productivity agricultural sector, which necessitates an increase in employment opportunities in the nonagricultural sector, particularly in rural and in semi-urban locations. Improving skills for employability, especially in manufacturing clusters (which is where the jobs are) located close to young girls’ rural homes, would help the females to join the labour force if non-agricultural jobs are growing. To release women from unpaid work in the household to join the paid labour force, it is essential to improve child care facilities and other basic service facilities, which again calls for raising the share of public expenditure in some sectors and specific facilities. For instance, increasing single working women’s housing, making public transport safer, and modifying public programmes to cater to women’s needs can pave the way for more women to engage and remain in the labour force, become active participants in the growth process, and thus achieve greater economic empowerment.


  • Santosh Mehrotra
  • Sharmistha Sinha