As more companies ask their employees to return to office after the pandemic, the share of women employed in regular salaried jobs in urban India decreased from 54 per cent in the first quarter to 52.8 per cent in the second quarter of the current financial year, according to the quarterly Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) data.
The slump in the share is the lowest in wage employment in any quarter in the last six years when the National Statistical Office started releasing the quarterly PLFS surveys in Q3 of FY19.
The share of women in wage work was highest in Q1 of FY21 at 61.2 per cent.
The survey using the ‘current weekly status’ (CWS) measure of employment classifies a person according to the type of work they would have engaged in during a one-week reference period, such as self-employed, regular wage/salaried employee and casual labour.
The survey showed the share of self-employed women increased to 40.3 per cent in Q2 of FY24 from 39.2 per cent in Q1 of FY24, while the share of casual workers marginally increased to 6.9 per cent in Q2 of FY24 from 6.8 per cent in Q1 of FY24.
In the regular wage or salaried work, workers regularly receive fixed wages.
It is generally considered a better form of employment than working as a casual worker or being self-employed as the latter also includes working as unpaid household help in agricultural fields or owning a small enterprise.
Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder at TeamLease Services, says that women employment in India faces a very peculiar situation as the increase in education levels does not translate into increased participation in the labour force, leading to low labour force participation and a declined share of women in wage work.
“Historically, the rise in education levels among women has meant they stay at home doing household chores and childcare.
"That is why women in urban areas have a lower labour force participation rate than in rural areas.
"Add to that, the current trend among firms to bring their employees back to the office after the pandemic means a large number of women prefer to stay at home and engage in household chores, as this presents an abrupt break in their professional lives,” she said.
Although the labour force participation rate (LFPR) among women in urban areas including those employed, as well as seeking jobs, has improved, touching a six-year high of 24 per cent in the September quarter of the current financial year, it is quite low when compared with the rural areas.
According to the latest annual PLFS report for 2022-23, women’s labour force participation in the rural workforce stood at 30.5 per cent compared to 20.2 per cent for the urban workforce.
Echoing similar views, labour economist KR Shyam Sundar says that women often participate in labour markets to supplement the family income rather than working for their professional growth.
“The urban economy is not able to produce enough decent jobs for the increasing labour force of both men and women, leading to greater competition among them.
"This is the reason more of them are working as household help or getting self-employed,” he added.
However, a recent report by the State Bank of India (SBI) claimed that India’s labour market including female employment is undergoing a structural transformation through self-entrepreneurship in "all echelons", and with higher educational attainment and access to formal credit through programmes like MUDRA Yojana and PMSVANidhi emerging as key enablers.