ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Women’s Work Participation in Rural Karnataka and Tamil Nadu

A Review of the Literature

India ranks among a handful of countries in West Asia, North Africa, and South Asia to have the lowest female labour force participation rates in the world. The LFPR has further been declining for women in India in the last two decades. The article focuses on the south Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to understand the proximate causes for these shifts. We combine temporal trends from the Employment and Unemployment surveys of the National Sample Survey Office with the literature on agrarian studies in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to explain the changes in rural women’s labour force participation and summarise the challenges in studying temporal trends in women’s work.

 

The authors are grateful for the grant from the Azim Premji University Research Funding Programme 2019 that supports this research.

The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewer for their comments.

Despite its rapid growth over the past two decades, India has among the lowest female labour force participation rates1 (LFPR) in the world, and this has been declining. As per the International Labour Organization, India stands at position 121 out of 131 countries in terms of female LFPR (Basole et al 2018: 47). The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a further decline in women’s work participation in India (Abraham et al 2021; Deshpande 2020, 2021; Kesar et al 2021).

We focus on the south Indian states of Tamil Nadu (TN) and Karnataka to understand their somewhat different trajectories in LFPR, and their proximate causes. We acknowledge the measurement iss­ues in capturing women’s work in the Indian secondary data (Deshpande and Kabeer 2019; Hirway 2012; Swaminathan 2020), but for the sake of comparison across geo­graphies and time, we consider the changing trends in the National Sample Survey Office (Employment and Unemployment Surveys) and the Census of India alongside village studies in these states in the last two decades.

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Updated On : 17th Feb, 2022
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