Falling Female Workforce Participation in India

Falling Female Workforce Participation in India

India is currently grappling with an alarming trend: the decline of female workforce participation. This is a concern that has been on the rise in recent years and is a cause for concern. According to data from the World Bank, the rate of female participation in the workforce has dropped from 34% in 2006 to 24% in 2021. This is a significant decrease that cannot be ignored.

Women workers at a garment factory in Vapi, Gujarat
Image Source: OutlookIndia

Women workers at a garment factory in Vapi, Gujarat

Reasons for the Decline

There are several reasons for the decline in female workforce participation in India. One of the major reasons is social and cultural norms. In many parts of India, women are still expected to prioritise household responsibilities over work outside the home. Additionally, women may face discrimination in the workplace, making it difficult for them to find suitable employment opportunities.

The inadequate infrastructure to support working women is another factor. For instance, it can be challenging for women to go to and from work since there aren’t enough accessible, safe, and inexpensive public transportation options. This is especially true in rural locations where access to transportation is constrained.

Impact on the Economy

The decline in female workforce participation has a significant impact on the economy. India’s workforce is largely male-dominated, and the low participation of women means that a significant portion of the population is not contributing to the country’s economic growth. This also means that India is not utilising the full potential of its population.

Furthermore, studies have shown that increasing female workforce participation can have a positive impact on the economy. For example, a report by McKinsey Global Institute estimates that India could increase its GDP by 18% by 2025 by increasing the rate of female workforce participation.


The Way Forward

There are several steps that can be taken to address the declining rate of female workforce participation in India. First, there is a need for greater investment in education and skills training for women. This will help to improve their employability and increase their chances of finding suitable employment.

Additionally, there is a need for policy interventions that address social and cultural norms that discourage women from working. For example, policies that provide affordable and safe public transport options for women can go a long way in making it easier for them to work outside the home.

Finally, there is a need for greater participation of women in decision-making processes. This includes representation in political and business leadership roles, as well as greater involvement in community-level decision-making.


In conclusion, it is concerning that India’s female workforce participation rate is declining. It has enormous effects on both the economy and the general growth of the nation. All interested parties, including the government, industry, and civil society, must work together to address this issue. We can build a more just and inclusive society that makes the most of its people’s potential by cooperating.


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