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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.

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