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Introduction to e-Symposium: Women and work in India

  • Blog Post Date 03 March, 2017
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Farzana Afridi

Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi Centre

Female labour force participation in India has been low and stagnant over the past few decades. I4I Editor Farzana Afridi is hosting an e-symposium to examine research that explores the reasons for this alarming trend and to discuss policies and programmes that can be adopted to bring gender equity to the labour market.

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India is in the throes of a 'demographic dividend' - the working-age population is currently 63.4% of the total population (Census of India, 2011), and is expected to rise to 69% by 2040 (United Nations Population Division, 2014). Yet, the potential of almost half of the country's youth may not be realised fully due to the abysmal rate of its women's labour force participation.

This e-symposium brings into focus research that explores the reasons for low workforce participation of women in India, both in levels and trends, and proposes policies and programmes that can be adopted to improve female labour force participation.

We begin the e-symposium with articles that highlight the alarming trend of stagnating or declining participation of women in the labour market over the past few decades. Stephan Klasen's article provides an insightful survey of the existing research on the possible explanations for this trend, proposed both from the demand and supply side. Afridi, Dinkelman and Mahajan then delve into the characteristics of rural women to provide one possible, but hitherto ignored, determinant of women's labour market participation decisions. Desai takes a counterview – providing arguments from the demand perspective – using an alternative data source.

How does Indian women's behaviour compare with other women in the sub-continent and what policies can be followed to encourage their workforce participation? Sher Singh Verick gives a sweeping perspective from other countries in Asia and the lessons we can learn from them. In the concluding piece, Rohini Pande proposes specific measures that should be adopted to bring gender equity to the labour market.

Other I4I posts related to Female Labour Force Participation: 


Does a fear of violence affect female labour supply in India?  - Zahra Siddique (Univ. of Bristol).

The anomaly of women's work and education in India – Surbhi Ghai  (ICRIER).

A family affair: Family members  role in female employment decisions in India – Joshua Dean (Univ. of Chicago), Seema Jayachandran (Northwestern Univ.).

Women’s work and fertility: Evidence from 200 years, 103 countries – Daniel Aaronson (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago), Rajeev Dehejia & Cyrus Samii (New York Univ.), Andrew Jordan (Univ.  of Chicago), Cristian Pop-Eleches (Columbia Univ.), Karl Schulze (Princeton Univ.).

Expanding opportunities in India’s  labour market: Gender, skills, and migration – Nalini Gulati (IGC India), Ella Spencer (IGC).

Smart policy for women's economic empowerment in South Asia – Nalini Gulati (IGC India), Jennifer Johnson (EPoD)

Changes in the nature of female workforce participation in India – P.C. Mohanan (NSC)

Access to credit and female labour supply in India – Erica Field (Duke Univ.), Rohini Pande (Harvard Univ.).

Moving in or dropping out? India's female migrants and urban labour force integration – Charity Troyer-Moore (EPoD), Rohine Pande (Harvard Univ.), Soledad Prillaman (Stanford Univ.)

Why do so few women in India work? – Piritta Sorsa (OECD).

What explains the decline in female labour force participation in India? – Urmila Chatterjee, Rinku Murgai, Martin Rama (World Bank).

Women and the Indian job market: Glass ceiling or sticky floor? – Ashwini Deshpande (Ashoka Univ.), Deepti Goel (Azim Premji Univ.), Shantanu Khanna (Univ. of California, Irvine).

What explains gender disparities in economic participation in India? – Ejaz Ghani (World Bank), William Kerr (Harvard Univ.), Stephen D. O’Connell (IZA).

What explains the stagnation of female labour force participation in urban India? - Stephen Klasen (Univ. of Göttingen ), Janneke Pieters (IZA).

Losing one half of India's demographic dividend – Jayan Jose Thomas (IIT, Delhi).

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