Women break new ground in Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme

They make up 57.8% of the scheme beneficiaries in 2022-23 — a 10-year high; Bihar and U.P. record a high proportion of women workers

December 31, 2022 09:49 pm | Updated January 01, 2023 08:16 am IST - NEW DELHI

Women work at a Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme project site at Umachagi village in Hubballi taluk, Karnataka. File

Women work at a Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme project site at Umachagi village in Hubballi taluk, Karnataka. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The proportion of women workers participating in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has touched a ten-year high in the ongoing financial year. According to the latest statistics available with the Union Ministry of Rural Development, 57.8% of the workers who used the scheme this year were women, their highest level of participation since 2012-13.

Out of the 15 States (Kerala, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh) that The Hindu reviewed, 14 States reported an upward trend in women’s participation. 

The only exception is Kerala, where the drop is miniscule. For the last five years, in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, women’s share in the MGNREGA workforce has been hovering between 85-90%. 

According to Kerala Rural Development Minister M.B. Rajesh, this phenomena is the result of two factors: market forces and welfare incentives for women MGNREGA workers. The gap between MGNREGA wages and market wages is high in the State, especially for male workers who are paid far more than female workers in the open market. This makes MGNREGA work much less attractive for male workers. “Additionally, the State offers incentives for women workers under MGNREGA, such as a dedicated welfare fund which extends insurance against any injury during work, and financial assistance to women workers above the age of 60 years,” Mr. Rajesh said.

Improved performances

The growth spike was higher in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which showed the most improvement in this regard this year. The proportion of women workers in Bihar grew 3.7 percentage points this year, while UP saw a 3.3 percentage point hike.

In Bihar, as per the data till December 30, women were responsible for 56.88% of the total persondays worked under the scheme, which is a significant increase from the 2018-19 figures of 51.75%. 

“The state government had given a clear message from the top to the administration that the performance of the officials will be judged on the basis of women’s participation in the programme. Through the year, we have been tracking numbers till the panchayat level. And to encourage more women to join in, we worked closely with the self-help groups,” D. Balamurugan, Rural Development Secretary, Bihar told The Hindu

Employing women supervisors

But even after this year’s spike, UP is still skimming just above the mandatory women’s participation level of 33% under MGNREGA. This year, 37.6% persondays were used by women as opposed to last year’s figure of 34.28%.

Editorial | Laboured wages: On MGNREGS payments to States

Gouri Shankar Priyadarshi, Commissioner of Rural Development in UP claimed that the State was making a concerted effort to bring more women into the fold. “We have significantly increased deployment of women as mates (or worksite supervisors) which has had a positive impact. At present 32,280 Mahila Mates have been trained, out of which about 21,050 have been deployed at MGNREGA sites, earning payment worth ₹60.68 crore,” Mr. Priyadarshi said. 

In fact, out of the 15 States reviewed, women make up less than 50% of the MGNREGA workforce in only seven States: Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.