Female Work and Labour Force Participation in India – a Meta Study

Female Work and Labour Force Participation in India – a Meta Study


The Indian government has actively pursued labour market policies to increase the female Labour/Workforce participation rate (LWFPR) in India for several decades. The policy-based approach has evolved from educational scholarships, reservations/quotas, to self-employment through self-help groups, and more recently to capacity building through skill training programmes. Challenges in effective implementation coupled with deep-rooted social norms have constrained the impact of these policies on female LWFPR which continues to dwindle. There have been numerous research projects and writings in the academic and public domain analysing the various factors affecting female labour-force participation in India. However, there has been little by way of meta studies to take stock of these public programmes, data, and research across disciplines to motivate further policy development.

This study undertakes a meta-analysis by methodically and comprehensively scanning, documenting and analysing datasets and national policies as well as theoretical and empirical literature surrounding female workforce participation relevant to the national context. In total 13 national level databases, 58 research papers and 53 national level policies were reviewed, documented and analysed to derive policy implications.

Key Insights

1. Basic quantitative labour market indicators are well measured in existing datasets, but indicators related to the quality of the labour market such as terms of employment, job search methods and so on, are rarely documented. Metrics related to gender inclusion and workplace conditions such as access to transport, toilets, childcare and others are equally rare. Another important aspect missing from national databases are behavioural and perception-based data such as career aspirations and expectations from course/job.

2. There is an increasing trade-off between education and employment choices today. The trade-off is primarily driven by a lack of employment for the moderately educated and by non-alignment of job opportunities with the aspirations of women. This is coupled with weak secondary sector performance in job creation for women, and challenges in migration for work for women.

3. Across the landscape of empirical literature, the efficacy of the self-help group (SHG) movement and peer effects have been duly highlighted for their potential to further the cause of women empowerment. Productive asset transfer and ownership has also been documented to have a positive impact of women’s economic participation. Vocational training has been noticed to improve women’s non-cognitive abilities, agency and bargaining power.

4. Competing outcomes of the household and labour market have resulted in women forgoing their employment. Further, deep-rooted social norms, lack of agency and gendering of occupations often leads to women having little choice in their employment and work decisions including care and domestic work.

5. While several policies exist to enable financial support, training, placements and other quantifiable outcomes, few national polices focus on providing support services, such as lodging, safe and convenient travel, migration support and childcare, that enable women to access skilling programmes or be part of the workforce. Budgetary focus on such programmes is comparatively low.

6. Studies are favourable towards the potential of gender quotas and reservations while discussing the need to prevent tokenism and enable inclusion actively through policy design. Of the total policies analysed, 35 percent of the schemes seek to achieve inclusion by setting targets on the total beneficiary composition, 18 percent by ear-marking funds, and 29 percent by “encouraging” inclusiveness as a policy mandate, but without actively designing policy components to bring about change. While 56 percent of the policies analysed are exclusive to women, these policies do not dive further to identify more disadvantaged groups of women.

The full report can be accessed below.

Female Work and Labour Force Participation in India – a Meta Study

Would you like to partner with us to further the conversation around inclusive labour market indicators and policiest? Write in to solutions@sattva.co.in.

Equal Economy: Women’s Participation in the Workforce

The Problem of Low Female Labour and Work Force Participation


India’s Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLPR) stands at 17.5% as per the latest estimates. In the global context of women’s employment, India is among the worst performers, bettering only countries like the Arab nations.

Not only are we failing to bring more women into the folds of gainful and meaningful employment, we have also been unsuccessful in arresting the untimely drop out of working women from the labour force.

What is stopping Indian women from being part of the paid workforce?

Primary Responsibility of Care
Women bear the burden of familial care, often having to give up promising careers to shoulder domestic responsibilities

Entrenched Gender Norms
Gender norms in India do not recognise women as active economic agents. India exhibits a well-documented pattern of women’s participation in the workforce during times of financial distress, only to withdraw under prosperous circumstances.

Lack of Support Systems
India’s public infrastructure needs to evolve a gender-consciousness. Women are hindered by issues like lack of mobility, absence of career counselling, migration support among others.

Lack of Quality Jobs
The economic growth of the country has not translated into quality jobs. The informal sector represents 81.6% of the employment for women but is characterized by poor and unsafe working conditions.

Lack of Role Models
The potential of role models and peers to motivate women to join the workforce are well-known. However, unless such role models are identified, and their stories channelized effectively, and transformed more concretely into opportunities of learning, counsel and mentorship, it is a lost opportunity.

About Equal Economy

EqualEconomy is a multi-stakeholder platform which design and execute contextual, scalable and sustainable solutions towards increasing workforce participation of women. All solutions are driven by data, with a focus on adoption and sustainability.

We recognise the need for solutions that are systemic and comprehensive, and rooted in the knowledge that women’s inability to participate in the workforce is an interplay of several contributing factors.

What we do

Underpinning our solutions are the key levers that enable systemic change:

  • – Building Gender sensitive workplaces and Understanding and exploring untapped segments of potential employment and growth for women – the MSMEs, customer experience roles, flexi-work, technology jobs.
  • – Ecosystem-level support interventions, such as, affordable and safe transportation, childcare services, counselling etc.
  • – Households that encourage and support women’s aspirations.
  • – Understanding and exploring untapped segments of potential employment and growth for women – the MSMEs, customer experience roles, flexi-work, technology jobs.

Training and On-The-Job Interventions

An employer-led, experiential, skilling program that enables young women to enter customer experience roles through a systemic intervention that involves skilling for employability, counselling and mentorship support and On-the-Job training.

Counselling and Awareness Building

Solution to foster agency and awareness among college students and build resilience and aspiration amongst women in the world of work.

Advocacy Initiatives

Action-oriented research undertaken to inform policy and civil society initiatives. Read our report: Work and Labour Force Participation in India – A Meta-Study – A 360-degree study that takes stock of academic, policy and civil society discourses on the reasons for low female workforce participation in India.

We are also working on several other solutions including, role-modelling and mentorship solutions, employer interventions for gender diversity, childcare, among others, for different profiles of women.
Sattva_EqualEconomy_Gender Engagements

Talk to us today to find out how you can partner with us or get involved: solutions@sattva.co.in

Abhishek Gogoi

Abhishek is an executive-search professional with our leadership hiring team, Careers In Impact. He has 4+ years of experience. Previously he has worked as a Research Analyst at Egon Zehnder and Heidrick & Struggles. During this time he has worked on mandates helping clients across the globe with their leadership hiring and executive assessment needs.

He holds a M.Sc in Economic Development and Policy Analysis from the University of Nottingham and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics Honours from University of Delhi.

CII Global Sports Summit ‘Scorecard’ 2018

The fourth edition of CII Global Sports Summit ‘Scorecard’ 2018 is scheduled to be held on 26 – 27 July 2018 at Hotel Le Meridian, New Delhi. The mission of the initiative is to get 300 crore children to play for an hour every day and the theme for this year’s summit is – ‘Sports @ 2022: Making India Play’

The CII Sports ‘Making India Play’ fund aims to invest in sports development so that sports education and sports infrastructure become more accessible to the youth of the nation. CII believes that sports is a tool for social inclusion and allowing it to grow beyond leagues and sponsorships can turn India’s sporting vision into reality.

The event will bring together top names from India and overseas operating in various segments of sports. Key industry stakeholders will have the opportunity to deliberate and discuss the most suitable course of action for boosting sports in India with a focus on sports education in schools.

At the event, our CEO, Srikrishna Sridhar Murthy will moderate a session on ‘CSR Funding in Grassroot Sports’ on 27 July from 10:00 – 11:00 hrs.

Sattva is privileged to partner with CII-Sports for this transformative initiative.

Be there to know how you can support every child’s hour of play. Register here.

Video: Design for Social Impact

“When you set off to make big social impact with product design, two things can make all the difference – the right social context and being prepared to take big risks.”

This was how our CEO Srikrishna Sridhar Murthy kicked off the Introduction to Design Thinking session for the applicants of the Design:Impact Awards.

The Awards promote visionary and transformative product design for social impact. The initiative has had a tremendous response and here is a quick glance at the applications received.

The applicants have been through selection processes and learning sessions and the finalists of Design:Impact Awards have now been selected. These life-changing innovations from all over the country are a great showcase of how great design can create great impact.

The initiative has had a tremendous response and Sattva is proud to partner with Design:Impact Awards to promote visionary and transformative product design for social impact.

Meet the finalistshttps://youtu.be/hIMYHuY97rM

Lakshmi Sethuraman

Lakshmi currently heads Operations at Sattva. She has been with Sattva since 2010 and has led a diverse set of projects during this time working extensively with leaders of social organisations in building and scaling their operations sustainably. She has also worked with key CSR clients of Sattva in designing, implementing impactful programmes. She also set up the sales function at Sattva.

Prior to Sattva, Lakshmi has worked with the Manipal Group, Jubilant Retail and ITC Hotels across sales, business development and strategy functions. She holds a PGDM from T.A.Pai Management Institute and is an alumunus of the INSEAD social entrepreneurship programme.

Anita Kumar

Anita Kumar leads the Strategic Initiatives group at Sattva. She has over a decade of experience in both the private sector and the development sector and has worn various hats – employee in a large corporate, freelancer, and entrepreneur. She was with Procter & Gamble for five years in Sales & then Go-to-market Strategy for All-India. In 2009 she shifted to the development sector to use her skills to solve more complex social issues, and was consulting with different social organisations through her firm InsightsApplied including the Tamil Nadu Government, and various Foundations. For about 1.5 years, she consulted full-time with one of the large skill training organisations in the country helping them across a range of activities including mission alignment, impact measurement, sales strategy and partnerships.

Last year she co-founded a social enterprise which used technology to bridge information gaps about learning and livelihoods for disadvantaged youth. Anita is a graduate of IIM Calcutta (2004) and has an MSc in Development Management from LSE.

Vrunda Bansode

Vrunda Bansode leads Marketing at Sattva. She has co-founded two education sector ventures, which focus on experiential STEM education for children. She has been part of the management team at NSRCEL – the startup incubator at IIM Bangalore, where she was also involved in conceptualising and setting up an incubator for early-stage non-profits in association with MSDF. She continues to actively contribute to entrepreneurship development, early-stage venture incubation eco-system and women entrepreneurship development initiatives through workshops, sessions and writing. She has co-authored a book for children called “Become a Junior Inventor” published by Penguin Random House.

Her prior work experience includes working with large corporations such as Bosch, Honeywell, Apple and Intuit in different capacities. She holds a Master’s degree from University of Pune and a PGDBM from Indo-German Training Centre, Mumbai.

Sports in Education: CII Sports

India, with its large young population, increasing levels of opportunity, and with highly successful sporting leagues, is at the cusp of a sporting revolution. We are poised to take a giant leap – which can potentially catapult our standing on the world stage and create opportunities for employment.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Sattva strongly believe that the role of sports in holistic development and social inclusion has a ripple effect on socio-economic growth. Sattva is working closely with CII on the Making India Play Fund to realise its vision of bringing about a culture of sports in the country through the following actionable areas:

1. Evangelising sports with a strong emphasis on the grassroots level
2. Creating a culture of sports in schools through the formal education system
3. Optimal utilisation of sports infrastructure and efficient creation of new facilities
4. Enhancing the involvement of the corporate sector in scaling up the ‘business of sports’
5. Channelising corporate CSR funds for the development of sports.

SelectHER: Women in the Workforce

What would happen if 50% of the workforce in the world and in India were women?

. The world could add $12 trillion to GDP in 2025, doubling the contribution of women to global growth in the coming decade
. India alone can add $2.9 trillion to its GDP by fully bridging the gender gap in the workplace
. This means a 60% increase in GDP, than business-as-usual in 2025

What does this mean for Indian society?

. Gender equality in society
. Better education for future generations
. Improved family well being

Through our primary and secondary research, we have found that there is significant business value in hiring women, especially in customer experience roles.

. Gender-diverse business units have 14% higher revenue in retail and 19% higher average quarterly net profit in hospitality, as compared to less gender-diverse units.
. Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases including everything from autos to health care

Having quality talent in customer facing roles has become a priority for the high growth industries with a B2C focus.

. 89 percent of companies worldwide expect to compete mostly based on customer experience in 2016, versus 36 percent just five years ago
. The same is true for India as well, where 74% of the CXOs indicated that the importance of customer experience is growing within their company

Sattva embarked on a mission last year, along with Global Development Incubators and Trust for Retailers and Retail Associates of India (TRRAIN), supported by J.P. Morgan, to provide a high-quality pipeline of female candidates in customer experience roles for bridge-to-luxury retail brands.

Over the past year, we trained 100 women and placed 77%. However, the learnings were significant and we observed multiple demand-supply mismatches that were systemic by nature and cannot be solved by skill training alone.

There is a need for disruptive, holistic solution over and above skilling. Sattva is looking to solve this problem by moving the needle from a skilling-only solution to a systemic solution engaging stake-holders across the value-chain.

Key Tenets for SelectHER Phase 2:

. High-growth industries with future-focused customer-experience roles
Employer as Partner through the candidate life-cycle, over and beyond the “training” period alone
. On-the-Job employability skills to be the significant differentiator
. Leverage technology to reduce friction, information asymmetry

Stay tuned for more updates on the programme!