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

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How COVID-19 Deepened the Gender Fault Lines in India’s Labour Markets

India has witnessed low levels of women’s labour force participation over the last four decades, with gaps of nearly 40 percentage points between the proportion of men and women in the labour force. Recent high-frequency data shows that COVID-19-induced lockdowns have had a disproportionate impact on women’s employment. Women bore the immediate impact of lockdowns, with 37.1% losing jobs (versus 27.7% men) in April 2020 and forming 73% of job losses in April 2021. Employment recovery has been slower for women. Prevailing sociocultural factors such as the increased burden of unpaid domestic work, gender digital divides, mobility restrictions, and the lack of institutional support at workplaces are discouraging women’s return to work. Even in January 2022, women’s labour force is 9.4% lower than January 2020 versus 1.6% for men. In this scenario, governments can support through gender-sensitive job-creation plans to expand women’s employment in the public and micro, small and medium enterprise sectors, and incentivise women’s entrepreneurship.

Women’s Work Participation in Rural Karnataka and Tamil Nadu

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.

 

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