IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Are Female Headed Households in Distress? Recent Evidence from Indian Labour Market


  • Mukherjee, Nandini
  • Ray, Jhilam


: Acknowledging women as economic agents with their direct contribution to growth continues to remain the focus of the nation among it’s various objectives even in the Twelfth Plan which suggest various ways of making economic growth truly inclusive . In order to be inclusive the nature and the composition of growth should be such that it should include the poor, particularly the excluded/ marginalised group like women and the disadvantaged socio-economic group. If women lack sufficient decent work opportunities and continue to remain excluded from the main stream economy and cannot contribute to the development process as economic agents for a considerable period of time then can have serious implications for future growth of Indian economy. In India recently there is a debate regarding “Missing female labour” where some portrayed this decline as a positive effect due to rising participation in education among young females and others claim that it was crowding-out of female labour in the face of agricultural stagnation and slowdown of economic growth. The objective of the present paper is to investigate the present status of households headed by female in rural and urban India and examine their demographic structure and employment pattern in comparison to male headed households using unit level data of NSSO employment and Unemployment (68th Round). The paper also look into the difference across various socio religious groups. We found that existence of Female headed household(FHH) arising out of several factors mainly absence of male member viz, widowhood, divorce, separation and desertion,migration of male members for long periods etc. The educational status of female head is poor compare to the male head and this results into lower capability and skill of the female head and resulting poor socio-economic condition. A significant section of female headed household (FHHs)is single membered. Average amount of land owned by FHH is much lower that the male headed household. It is found that nearly 60% of female head are not in labour force and are either attending education or engaged in domestic duty. This exclusion from labour market may work as a hindrance for further empowerment. It can be observed that a significant section of women above 15+ age group are attending educational institute .The low rate of participation of women in wage employment is an issue of concern and debate. The present of socio-economic condition and growth process need to be much more inclusive to distribute the beneficiaries of growth and economic progress if it is to function in an effective manner. The results of economic reforms and it’s impact on all the marginal section of the society need to be examined carefully. Across tribal group women of FHHs have larger presence as own account worker than women of Male Headed Households (MHH). Interestingly higher percentage of women of tribal group and Scheduled caste (SC) from FHHs are engaged as wage worker. Around 11% of tribal women from FHHs are working as regular/salaried employee. Again women from muslim group has lower presence in this category. Though women from MHHs are in less percentage share compared to FHHs, presence of upper caste Hindu s are higher as regular wage employee who are coming from MHHs. Again Muslim women from MHHs are less in number. A large section of SC, ST women both from MHHs and FHHs are working as casual worker. This may be a distress drive phenomenon. A small percentage of women from Hindu upper caste coming from MHHs as well as FHHs are working as casual workers compared to other socio-religious group. This indicate that casual employment among women is high among the so called backward group though for the Muslim women it is low. Women from Muslim group both in case of MHHs and FHHs have very low percentage participation in the labour market. More than 70% from FHHs and 77% from MHHs of Muslim women are not in the labour force. Nearly 45-50 % Muslim women are engaged in domestic work and other work along with domestic duty. Surprisingly such percentage is also high for women of upper Hindu coming from MHHs (nearly 36%). This indicate that along with the backward group like Muslim women, the so called higher Hindu upper caste women are also less in the labour market. Among the poor worker from FHHs 46% of them are engaged in crop related activity, 11% in building works, 7% in retail trade, 4% incivil engineering related activities. A large section of SC, ST women both from MHHs and FHHs are working as casual worker. A significant portion of Women of FHH are present in retail trade, tobacco manufacturing , and building construction. The nature of job as well the other conditions in these sectors generally not suitable for the women. Still women from FHH has higher presence in this sectors than women from MHH indicating a distress driven participation. The policy need to be more inclusive in nature and it requires on the one hand larger capacity building and skill development for women of all section and on the other generation of awareness regarding equality in terms of dignity, opportunity and right.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:64490

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: original version
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Neff, Daniel & Sen, Kunal & Kling, Veronika, 2012. "The Puzzling Decline in Rural Women's Labor Force Participation in India: A Reexamination," GIGA Working Papers 196, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    2. Klasen, Stephan & Pieters, Janneke, 2012. "Push or Pull? Drivers of Female Labor Force Participation during India's Economic Boom," IZA Discussion Papers 6395, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Sanghamitra Kanjilal-Bhaduri & Francesco Pastore, 2018. "Returns to Education and Female Participation Nexus: Evidence from India," The Indian Journal of Labour Economics, Springer;The Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE), vol. 61(3), pages 515-536, September.
    2. Ragui Assaad & Rana Hendy & Moundir Lassassi & Shaimaa Yassin, 2020. "Explaining the MENA paradox: Rising educational attainment yet stagnant female labor force participation," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 43(28), pages 817-850.
    3. Ilhom Abdulloev & Ira N Gang & Myeong-Su Yun, 2014. "Migration, Education and the Gender Gap in Labour Force Participation," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 26(4), pages 509-526, September.
    4. Isis Gaddis & Stephan Klasen, 2014. "Economic development, structural change, and women’s labor force participation:," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 27(3), pages 639-681, July.
    5. Margaux Suteau, 2020. "Inheritance Rights and Women's Empowerment in the Labor and Marriage Markets," THEMA Working Papers 2020-17, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
    6. Gunatilaka, Ramani., 2013. "To work or not to work? : Factors holding women back from market work in Sri Lanka," ILO Working Papers 994838403402676, International Labour Organization.
    7. Sofia Amaral & Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay & Rudra Sensarma, 2015. "Public Work Programs and Gender-based Violence: The Case of NREGA in India," Discussion Papers 15-09, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
    8. Mehrotra, Santosh & Parida, Jajati K., 2017. "Why is the Labour Force Participation of Women Declining in India?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 360-380.
    9. Amrita Datta & Tanuka Endow & Balwant Singh Mehta, 0. "Education, Caste and Women’s Work in India," The Indian Journal of Labour Economics, Springer;The Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE), vol. 0, pages 1-20.
    10. Deshpande, Ashwini & Goel, Deepti & Khanna, Shantanu, 2018. "Bad Karma or Discrimination? Male–Female Wage Gaps Among Salaried Workers in India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 331-344.
    11. Ali Fakih & Pascal L. Ghazalian, 2013. "Female Labour Force Participation in MENA's Manufacturing Sector: The Implications of Firm-related and National Factors," CIRANO Working Papers 2013s-46, CIRANO.
    12. Ms. Sonali Jain-Chandra & Mr. Sonali Das & Naresh Kumar & Ms. Kalpana Kochhar, 2015. "Women Workers in India: Why So Few Among So Many?," IMF Working Papers 2015/055, International Monetary Fund.
    13. Amaresh Dubey & Wendy Olsen & Kunal Sen, 2017. "The Decline in the Labour Force Participation of Rural Women in India: Taking a Long-Run View," The Indian Journal of Labour Economics, Springer;The Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE), vol. 60(4), pages 589-612, December.
    14. Sarah Gammage & Naila Kabeer & Yana van der Meulen Rodgers, 2016. "Voice and Agency: Where Are We Now?," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 22(1), pages 1-29, January.
    15. Amaia Altuzarra & Catalina Gálvez-Gálvez & Ana González-Flores, 2019. "Economic Development and Female Labour Force Participation: The Case of European Union Countries," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(7), pages 1-18, April.
    16. World Bank, . "India : Women, Work and Employment," World Bank Other Operational Studies, The World Bank, number 18737.
    17. Dhanaraj, Sowmya & Mahambare, Vidya, 2019. "Family structure, education and women’s employment in rural India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 17-29.
    18. Rendall, Michelle, 2013. "Structural Change in Developing Countries: Has it Decreased Gender Inequality?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 1-16.
    19. Agnieszka Gehringer & Stephan Klasen, 2017. "Labor Force Participation of Women in the EU – What Role do Family Policies Play?," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 31(1), pages 15-42, March.
    20. Dagmara Nikulin, 2016. "THE IMPACT OF ICTs ON WOMEN’S ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT," GUT FME Working Paper Series A 43, Faculty of Management and Economics, Gdansk University of Technology.

    More about this item


    Female Headed Household; Gender; Employment; Labour Market;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:64490. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Joachim Winter (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.