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The Puzzling Decline in Rural Women’s Labor Force Participation in India: A Reexamination


  • Daniel Neff

    () (GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies)

  • Kunal Sen

    () (GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies)

  • Veronika Kling

    () (GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies)


Between 2004/2005 and 2009/2010 there was a sharp fall in female labor force participation (LFP) in rural India. Why did this occur? We look at the four standard explanations: that more women in rural areas are now pursuing higher education and are therefore not available for work (education effect), that household incomes are rising quickly enough that there is a tendency for women to withdraw from the labor force to attend to domestic duties (income effect), that employment opportunities for women are decreasing, and that social and cultural factors may be interacting with these three factors and amplifying their effects. Our findings suggest that the decline in rural women’s LFP could potentially be due to an income effect and partly due to an education effect. We find no evidence of changes in employment opportunities or of social and cultural interaction effects that could explain the decline in rural female LFP.

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  • Daniel Neff & Kunal Sen & Veronika Kling, 2012. "The Puzzling Decline in Rural Women’s Labor Force Participation in India: A Reexamination," GIGA Working Paper Series 196, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:wpaper:196

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Wendy Olsen, 2006. "A Pluralist Account of Labour Participation in India," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-042, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rajendra P. Mamgain & Shivakar Tiwari, 2016. "Youth in India: Challenges of Employment and Employability," Working Papers id:10547, eSocialSciences.
    2. Afridi, Farzana & Dinkelman, Taryn & Mahajan, Kanika, 2016. "Why Are Fewer Married Women Joining the Work Force in India? A Decomposition Analysis over Two Decades," IZA Discussion Papers 9722, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Himanshu & Kunal Sen, 2014. "Revisiting the Great Indian Poverty Debate: Measurement, Patterns, and Determinants," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 20314, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
    4. repec:ilo:ilowps:483478 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Kanjilal-Bhaduri, Sanghamitra & Pastore, Francesco, 2017. "Returns to Education and Female Participation Nexus: Evidence from India," IZA Discussion Papers 11209, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Sowmya Dhanaraj & Vidya Mahambare, 2017. "Family structure, education and women’s employment in rural India," WIDER Working Paper Series 195, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    7. repec:ris:sphecs:0260 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Rajendra P. Mamgain & Shivakar Tiwari, 2016. "Youth in India: challenges of employment and inclusion," Journal of Social and Economic Development, Springer;Institute for Social and Economic Change, vol. 18(1), pages 85-100, October.
    9. Kelkar, Govind., 2013. "At the threshold of economic empowerment : women, work and gender regimes in Asia," ILO Working Papers 994834783402676, International Labour Organization.
    10. Chatterjee,Urmila & Murgai,Rinku & Rama,Martin G., 2015. "Job opportunities along the rural-urban gradation and female labor force participation in India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7412, The World Bank.
    11. Mukherjee, Nandini & Ray, Jhilam, 2014. "Are Female Headed Households in Distress? Recent Evidence from Indian Labour Market," MPRA Paper 64490, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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    labor force; women; rural; India;

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