About 71% of Indian men are part of the workforce, when considering persons aged 15 and above. However, only 22% of the country’s female population is at work. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) recently released the Period Labour Force Survey (PLFS) for 2017-18. The survey reveals gendered differences in workforce participation and wages earned.
The survey received much attention ahead of its release, with leaked versions making the rounds in the draft stages. While much of the focus has been on the unemployment rate touching a 45-year high, the survey data also reveals worrying trends in the increasingly more gender-skewed Indian workforce.
Less than one-fourth of Indian women are at work
Across all States, both in rural and urban areas, there are fewer women in the workforce, compared to men. Meghalaya is the only State where 50% of the female population is at work. In Bihar, merely 4% of its women are part of the workforce.
Worker population ratio (WPR) indicates the number of people employed, per 1,000 people. A State-wise comparison of the gender-based difference in WPR shows that the gap between the number of men and women at work is very severe in States like Assam (63.7 percentage points) and Bihar (59.7 percentage points). This gendered skew in workforce population ratio is lowest in Himachal Pradesh (23.5 percentage points), followed by Meghalaya (25.2 percentage points).
The following scatter plot gives an indication of the unemployment rate in States, as well as the gender gap in the WPR.
Gendered pay gap
Even as more than three quarters of the female population remains out of the workforce, those who are a part of it earn less than male workers. For instance, in April-June 2018, the average earnings of men in salaried employment was ₹17,697.78 per month. In the same time period, women earned ₹13,890.27 per month, on an average. The lone exception in this wage gap comparison is Uttar Pradesh, where women (₹20,489.84) earned more than men (₹16,386.04).
The wage gap is not limited to salaried employment. Gendered differences in earnings can also be seen in self-employment and casual labour. In the case of self-employment, women made less than men.
The wage gap is further worsened by differences in how the earnings of men and women increase. In both salaried employment and self-employment, while the average monthly earnings of men showed periodic improvement, the same cannot be said about women’s earnings.
Earlier this year, in March, the Monster Salary Index (MSI) survey found that Indian women earned 19% less than their male counterparts. It was also found that the gap is more severe in IT/ITES and manufacturing sectors.