Larger share of senior citizens in India’s villages work compared to urban counterparts

Around 50% of male senior citizens were working compared to 22% women, according to the LASI report

By Pratyusha Ghosh
Published: Wednesday 03 March 2021
A higher percentage of senior citizens work in rural India than in the cities

The proportion of working senior citizens (age 60 and above) was higher in the villages of India than in the cities, found the first Longitudinal Ageing Survey of India (LASI) released in January, 2021. 

The survey conducted in 2017-18 on over 70,000 individuals above the age of 45 years found that 40 per cent senior citizens in rural areas were working compared to 26 per cent in urban areas.

This indicates that the rural elderly continue to work in the agriculture sector beyond the age of 60 years, the report said.

Ageing is inevitable and comes with complications that affect the economic and social dispositions of older adults, among other things.

Opportunities for participation in workforce, social protection, security and a positive work environment can be beneficial in achieving a productive ageing society, said the LASI report.

But in today’s India, the elderly work more out of compulsion to support their basic needs than choice. This is majorly evident for socio-economically vulnerable groups.

Three mutually exclusive categories of work were defined in the LASI report:

  • Currently working (worked at the time of the survey), 
  • Worked in the past for at least three months continuously at some point in their lifetime, but currently not working, and 
  • Never worked.

Distribution of elderly Indians by work status, 2017-18


(Source: LASI Wave 1, 2017-18)

Work participation declines with age, according to the report. About three-fifths of Indians aged 45–59 years and slightly more than a third of the senior citizens (aged 60 and above) were currently working at the time of the survey.

Among the senior citizens, half of the number of men surveyed were working compared to 22 per cent of women.

The proportion of senior citizens who have worked in the past but were not working is uniform across rural and urban areas. A higher proportion of urban elderly never worked compared to rural elderly.

Among individuals in the 45-59 age group, a high percentage is currently working and a small percentage of who have worked in the past were neither working nor officially retired from the organised sector.

One third of senior citizens were working and another third were neither working nor officially retired.

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth

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