Female Labour Force Participation Rate

Female Labour Force Participation Rate


Why in the news?

The Periodic Labor Force Survey has shown a gradual increase in the Female Labour Force Participation Rate.


Despite the PLFS report of 2023 showing a positive increase of 4.2%, the female labor force participation rate (FLFPR) in India remains low at 37%. This poses a big challenge to India's demographic dividend. It's crucial to take quick actions to boost female participation in the workforce, especially in productive sectors, to fulfill India's goal of becoming a developed nation by 2047.


  • LFPR: It represents the percentage of individuals in the labor force, comprising those currently working, seeking employment, or available for work, in the total population.
  • FLFPR: Specifically, the Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLFPR) denotes the percentage of working-age women either employed or actively seeking employment.
  • Global Trend: On a global scale, female labor force participation remains relatively low. According to World Bank estimates in 2022, the worldwide LFPR for women was 47.3%. Despite advancements, a consistent decline is noted in the LFPR of women in developing nations, resulting in a significant gender-based disparity in labor market participation.

Data of the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) in India:

  • The PLFS data reveals that the LFPR for women in the working age group (15-59 years) in India is only 35.6%.
  • In the year 2021-22, the participation rates differ in rural (39.3%) and urban (26.5%) areas, indicating significant variations.
  • Notably, from 2017 to 2021, there has been an increase in women's LFPR relative to men, particularly in rural areas.
  • However, over the extended period between 1990 and 2022, female labor force participation in India has seen a decline from 28% to 24%. This decline has impeded the growth of women and curtailed their potential to achieve their maximum capabilities.

Factors Contributing to Lower Women Participation in the Workforce:

  • Patriarchal Social Norms:
  • Traditional Gender Roles: Long-standing patriarchal norms and conventional gender roles often hinder women's access to education and job opportunities.
  • Caregiver and Homemaker Expectations: Societal expectations often prioritize women as caregivers and homemakers, discouraging their active involvement in the workforce.
  • Gender Wage Gap:
  • Wage Disparities: Women in India frequently encounter wage inequalities compared to men performing similar roles.
  • Income Discrepancy: As per the World Inequality Report 2022, men in India claim 82% of labor income, leaving only 18% for women.
  • Discouragement for Formal Employment: The wage gap serves as a deterrent for women seeking formal employment, impacting their economic participation.
  • Unpaid Care Work:
  • Burden of Domestic Responsibilities: Unpaid care and domestic work disproportionately burden women, limiting their time and energy for paid employment.
  • Time Disparity: Married women in India spend over 7 hours daily on unpaid care and domestic tasks, significantly more than men's less than 3 hours.
  • Widespread Gender Disparity: This pattern cuts across income levels and caste groups, contributing to a notable gender disparity in domestic responsibilities.
  • Social and Cultural Stigma:
  • Stigma and Resistance: In certain communities, there might be societal stigma or resistance associated with women pursuing employment outside the home.
  • Impact on Participation Rates: This stigma contributes to lower labor force participation rates among women, impacting their ability to engage in formal employment opportunities.

    Expected Impact of Higher Women Labor Participation on Society:

    • Economic Growth:
      • The engagement of women in the labor force is intricately tied to economic growth. Underutilization of a substantial female population results in lost productivity and economic output.
      • Increased participation of women in the labor force can actively contribute to a boost in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and overall economic prosperity.
    • Poverty Reduction:
        • Providing women with income-generating opportunities plays a crucial role in lifting households out of poverty. This, in turn, leads to improved living standards and enhanced well-being for families.
    • Human Capital Development:
    • Positive Influence: Educated and economically active women wield a positive influence on the educational and health outcomes of their children, fostering intergenerational benefits.
    • Gender Equality and Empowerment:
      • A higher women's labor force participation challenges traditional gender roles, fostering an environment that promotes gender equality.
      • The active involvement of women in the workforce empowers them economically, granting greater control over their lives, decision-making power, and autonomy.
    • Fertility and Population Growth:
    • Fertility Transition: Studies indicate that an increase in women's labor force participation correlates with a decline in fertility rates. This phenomenon, known as the "fertility transition," aligns with improved access to education, healthcare, and family planning, fostering more sustainable population growth.
      • Reduced Gender-Based Violence:
        • Economic empowerment resulting from increased labor force participation enhances women's bargaining power, reducing their vulnerability to gender-based violence and abusive relationships.
    • Labor Market and Talent Pool:
    • The rise in women's participation in the labor force addresses skill shortages and imbalances in the labor market. This, in turn, facilitates a more efficient allocation of talent and resources.

    Strategies for Fostering Increased Female Labor Market Participation:

    • Enhance the Quality of Day Care Services:
      • Current Disincentives: Insufficient day-care services often discourage women from actively participating in the labor force.
      • Critical Measures: There is a pressing need to improve the quality and accessibility of day-care services and crèches catering to women across diverse socio-economic backgrounds, spanning formal and informal sectors.
      • Government Initiatives: Initiatives like the National Creche Scheme for the Children of Working Mothers have been introduced to address this need.
      • Universal Implementation: The implementation of such schemes should extend to both public and private sectors, playing a pivotal role in encouraging married women's increased involvement in the labor force.
    • Tailored Work Settings and Supportive Measures:
    • Prioritizing Women's Needs: Work environments should be designed to prioritize the specific needs and well-being of women, ensuring a conducive atmosphere for their sustained participation in the labor market.
      • Secure Transportation Options: The provision of secure transportation options is crucial for ensuring women's safety during commute, eliminating a significant barrier to their increased participation.
      • Part-Time Job Opportunities: Expanding part-time job possibilities creates a flexible work structure, accommodating diverse responsibilities that women often juggle, and promoting greater engagement in the labor market.


    Addressing the barriers to female labor force participation requires a comprehensive approach that includes enhancing day-care services, tailoring work settings to prioritize women's needs, providing secure transportation options, and expanding part-time job opportunities. Government initiatives such as the National Creche Scheme are a positive step, but universal implementation across sectors is crucial. By creating an inclusive and supportive environment, India can empower women to actively contribute to the labor market, fostering economic growth and societal well-being.