Low, stagnating female labour-force participation in India
India's growth strategy has focused on domestic demand and high-value service exports, which generate too few employment opportunities for women
In recent decades, India has enjoyed economic and demographic conditions that ordinarily would lead to rising female labour-force participation rates. Economic growth has been high, averaging 6-7% in the 1990s and 2000s; fertility has fallen substantially; and female education has risen dramatically, albeit from a low level. In other regions, including Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa, similar trends have led to large increases in female participation. Yet National Sample Survey (NSS) data for India show that labour force participation rates of women aged 25-54 (including primary and subsidiary status) have stagnated at about 26-28% in urban areas, and fallen substantially from 57% to 44% in rural areas, between 1987 and 2011. Different age groups or different surveys essentially tell the same story, even though the levels differ slightly.