Women and Men in India 2022: Sex ratio improves but female participation in workforce still low

Social factors, educational qualifications & gender discrimination in terms of wages & opportunities reasons for low share of women in workforce, authors say

By Taran Deol
Published: Friday 17 March 2023
Photo: iStock

India’s sex ratio (females per 1,000 males) is expected to improve to 952 by 2036, up significantly from 943 in 2011, according to the Women and Men in India 2022 report released March 16, 2023. 

The sex ratio at birth went up by three points to 907 in 2018-20 from 904 in 2017-19, the report by the Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation noted. 

But women are still largely left out of the labour force, restricting their scope of financial independence. India’s Labour Force Participation Rate — defined as the percentage of persons in the labour force in the population — for those above 15 years of age has been on the rise since 2017-2018. However, women are severely lagging behind men. 

The rate was 77.2 for males and 32.8 for females in 2021-22, with no improvement in this disparity over the years, the report showed. 

“Such a low participation of women as compared to men in India’s labour force may be due to the social factors, educational qualifications and gender discrimination in terms of wages and opportunities at work place,” the authors of the report argued. 

The average wage earned per day by casual labourers in work other than public works only further highlights the disparity — men in rural areas earn more than women in urban areas. 

Other population trends

The population growth, already on a downward trend from 2.2 per cent in 1971 to 1.1 per cent in 2021, is projected to fall further to 0.58 per cent in 2036. In absolute figures, this translates into 1.2 billion people with 48.5 per cent female population as per Census 2011 to an expected 1.5 billion in 2036 with a marginal improvement in the female population share (48.8 per cent).

The report also features India’s age and sex structure, as per which the population under 15 years of age is expected to decline and the population above 60 years is expected to increase by 2036. “Accordingly, the population pyramid will undergo a shift as the base of the pyramid in 2036 would narrow down, while the middle would be broadened,” the report notes.

Source: Report of the Technical Group on Population Projections for India and States 2011-2036, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, July 2020

“The age and sex structure of a country’s population can affect gender issues in a variety of ways. Age structure impacting various aspects of societies is determined primarily by trends in fertility and mortality,” the report argued. 

Gender influences people’s access to and experience with healthcare, the report highlighted. “Lack of access to resources and decision-making power, restrictions on mobility, etc make access to health information and services more difficult for women and girls than men and boys.”

The age-specific fertility rate — defined in the report as the number of live births in a specific age group of women per thousand female individuals of that age group — for the 20-24 years and 25-29 years age group between 2016 and 2020 reduced from 135.4 and 166.0 to 113.6 and 139.6 respectively. 

This is likely a function of “economic independence by attaining proper education and securing a job”, the analysts wrote. 

The same indicator for the 35-39 years age group increased from 32.7 in 2016 to 35.6 in 2020. The mean age for marriage has improved marginally —  up from 22.1 years in 2017 to 22.7 years in 2020. Other indicators like infant mortality rate and under-five mortality rate have also been on the downward trend, data from the National Family Health Survey has shown.

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