What is keeping women from working in India?

Women’s labour force participation has never looked promising, but the decline in numbers in the last two decades have been alarming. One of the major reasons for this drop is the rise in the number of women in formal education, which in turn delays their entry into the job market.

But the real travesty is that the few who do enter the labour force are faced with gendered distribution of jobs, which is mostly concentrated in low productivity industries.

Women’s careers may be peaking in the world of Indian films, but the narrative in real life tells a different story.  Only 27% are in the labour force – down from 35% in 2004. And this fall is even sharper when seen from the lens of women in the age group of 15-24 years. Almost half are not in education, employment or training, compared to just 8% of young men.

This is critical in the larger context of declining female labour force participation rates (FLPRs).


According to a report by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), while 2.4 million women fell off the employment map, jobs for men increased by 0.9 million in the same time period. This meant that while women were quitting jobs, more men were joining the workforce.

Why is this happening? Why are women withdrawing from the world of work?

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