Why is female participation in the workforce on the decline in India? It is a conundrum that is flummoxing many. As against a 45.4 per cent median female share of the workforce in 144 countries, a study released by Pew Research Center in March 2017 had ranked India, with 25.9 per cent share, among the 10 lowest. The study was based on labour force data from 2010 to 2016. The latest National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data for 2017-18, yet to be officially released, shows female participation in the workforce has declined further to 23.3 per cent, as per NSSO data reported by Somesh Jha in a business daily.
The new data raises questions on why women are not participating in the workforce in greater numbers when in most examinations for higher studies or even competitive jobs they seem to outscore male counterparts. The latest NSSO data on youth (15-29 years) shows that their participation has dropped from 37.1 per cent in 2004-05 and 24.4 per cent in 2011-12 to just 16.4 per cent in 2017-18.