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Married women's share in urban workforce stagnant, says paper

The workforce participation of married men was more than 90%, while the figure did not even touch 20% for married women
Last Updated : 07 January 2023, 02:22 IST
Last Updated : 07 January 2023, 02:22 IST
Last Updated : 07 January 2023, 02:22 IST
Last Updated : 07 January 2023, 02:22 IST

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Marriage works as a premium for men and a penalty for women in the urban labour market in India, a working paper published by the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) has concluded.

The paper, which studied patterns of urban employment in three phases — 2004-05, 2011-12, and 2018-19 — stated that while educational levels have increased faster for women than for men, more than 90% of married women are engaged in domestic work.

‘Locating married women in urban labour force: How India is faring in 21st century’, a working paper by PhD scholar Jyoti Thakur, examined data from the employment and unemployment rounds of the National Sample Survey (2004-05 and 2011-12) and the Periodic Labour Force Survey (2018-19).

The researcher found that during the analysis period of 15 years, the workforce participation of married men was more than 90%, while the figure did not even touch 20% for married women (see box).

A closer study of the share of married women in the labour force revealed that while 80% of women in the productive age group are married, their share in the labour force has decreased from 15% in 2004-05 to 14% in 2018-19. The labour force is defined as a combination of the workforce (employed persons) and the unemployed.

The working paper had as co-author Reimeingam Marchang, assistant professor at the Centre for Study of Social Change and Development, ISEC.

“Assessments of women’s participation in the labour force have invariably seen them as a collective group. It is important to make a distinction between single women and married women, who face their own unique challenges and are more impacted by expectations driven by cultural factors,” Jyoti told DH.

Domestic constraints

Progressive state policies have helped women move closer to parity in educational levels. The progress, however, has not translated to better participation of married women in the labour market because gender equations within the household have remained tethered to the ideology of “intensive motherhood”, where children remain at the centre of their existence, Jyoti said.

“The general narrative has been that more married women in the urban centres are taking up jobs but the data shows how their participation (in the workforce) has remained stagnant at around 18% for decades,” she said.

In 2018-19, among the married women who were out of the labour force and were attending domestic duties, 19.4% were in the graduate-plus category. The figures for 2004-05 and 2011-12 are 12.3% and 15.5%, respectively. In 2018-19, 97% of the married women out of the labour force were engaged in domestic duties.

In the last 15 years, an additional 22 million men entered the urban labour market while only 7 million women entered the market during the period. In 2018-19, India had 92 million men and 24 million women in the labour force.

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Published 06 January 2023, 21:58 IST

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