Contemporary Features of Rural Workers in India with a Focus on Gender and Caste

Article Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Indian Journal of Labour Economics


This paper explores the features of rural labour markets in the contemporary period with a focus on women workers, based on secondary data as well as the PARI archive of village data. The first argument is that the low female work participation ratio, as reported by labour force surveys, may be misleading. The picture is very different with time-use data: the majority of women are found to be engaged in economic activity, with clear seasonal variations. Secondly, women workers are more dependent on agriculture than male workers. The relative absence of non-agricultural employment among women workers is consistent with the argument that women face constraints to physical mobility and prefer employment near their homes. The third notable feature of recent times is that large numbers of women, from different social groups and economic classes, participated in the employment generated under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. This evidence put together suggests that if appropriate employment opportunities are provided, the number and proportion of women workers will rise. The fourth striking feature of rural labour markets is the persistence of a large gender gap in wages. Lastly, Scheduled Castes typically comprised the major share of the rural female labour force.

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