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Job opportunities along the rural-urban gradation and female labor force participation in India


  • Chatterjee,Urmila
  • Murgai,Rinku
  • Rama,Martin G.


The recent decline in India?s rural female labor force participation is generally attributed to higher rural incomes in a patriarchal society. Together with the growing share of the urban population, where female participation rates are lower, this alleged income effect does not bode well for the empowerment of women as India develops. This paper argues that a traditional supply-side interpretation is insufficient to account for the decline in female participation rates, and the transformation of the demand for labor at local levels needs to be taken into account as well. A salient trait of this period is the collapse in the number of farming jobs without a parallel emergence of other employment opportunities considered suitable for women. The paper develops a novel approach to capture the structure of employment at the village or town level, and allow for differences along six ranks in the rural-urban gradation. It also considers the possible misclassification of urban areas as rural, as a result of household surveys lagging behind India?s rapid urbanization process. The results show that the place of residence along the rural-urban gradation loses relevance as an explanation of female labor force participation once local job opportunities are taken into account. Robustness checks confirm that the main findings hold even when taking into account the possibility of spurious correlation and endogeneity. They also hold under alternative definitions of labor force participation and when sub-samples of women are considered. Simulations suggest that for India to reverse the decline in female labor force participation rates it needs to boost job creation.

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  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:7412

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Achyuta Adhvaryu & Namrata Kala & Anant Nyshadham, 2018. "The Skills to Pay the Bills: Returns to On-the-job Soft Skills Training," NBER Working Papers 24313, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Chakraborty, Tanika & Mukherjee, Anirban & Rachapalli, Swapnika Reddy & Saha, Sarani, 2018. "Stigma of sexual violence and women’s decision to work," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 226-238.
    3. Hyland,Marie Caitriona & Islam,Asif Mohammed & Muzi,Silvia, 2020. "Firms'Discriminatory Behavior, and Women's Employment in the Democratic Republic of Congo," Policy Research Working Paper Series 9224, The World Bank.
    4. Arun Jaitley, 2016. "Economic Survey 2015-16-Volume I," Working Papers id:9911, eSocialSciences.
    5. Fletcher, Erin K. & Pande, Rohini & Troyer Moore, Charity, 2017. "Women and Work in India: Descriptive Evidence and a Review of Potential Policies," Working Paper Series rwp18-004, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    6. Gibson, John & Datt, Gaurav & Murgai, Rinku & Ravallion, Martin, 2017. "For India’s Rural Poor, Growing Towns Matter More Than Growing Cities," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 413-429.
    7. Verick, Sher, 2018. "The Puzzles and Contradictions of the Indian Labour Market: What Will the Future of Work Look Like?," IZA Discussion Papers 11376, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    8. Esha Chatterjee & Sonalde Desai & Reeve Vanneman, 2018. "Indian paradox: Rising education, declining womens' employment," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 38(31), pages 855-878.
    9. Balcazar Salazar,Carlos Felipe & Desai,Sonal & Murgai,Rinku & Narayan,Ambar, 2016. "Why did poverty decline in India ? a nonparametric decomposition exercise," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7602, The World Bank.
    10. Arun Jaitley, 2016. "Economic Survey 2015-16-Volume II," Working Papers id:9912, eSocialSciences.
    11. Klasen, Stephan, 2020. "From ‘MeToo’ to Boko Haram: A survey of levels and trends of gender inequality in the world," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 128(C).
    12. Li,Yue - SARCE & Rama,Martin G., 2015. "Households or locations ? cities, catchment areas and prosperity in India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7473, The World Bank.
    13. World Bank, 2017. "India Development Update, May 2017," World Bank Other Operational Studies 27545, The World Bank.
    14. Arun Jaitley, 2018. "Economic Survey 2017: Volume I, Chapter 7: Gender and Son Meta-Preference: Is Development Itself an Antidote?," Working Papers id:12445, eSocialSciences.

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    Labor Markets; Housing&Human Habitats; Population Policies; Educational Policy and Planning; Labor Policies;

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