Labour Survey rejig to measure women participation better

India could tweak the way it measures women participation in the overall workforce to bring it on a par with international standards and fully capture their contribution.

The 28-member standing committee on economic statistics, constituted by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation (Mospi) in January 2020, is deliberating revamp of the questionnaire used for the Periodic Labour Force Survey, a person aware of the development told ET.

“There is a view that the PLFS has certain measurement issues with female participation rate. This can be addressed by tweaking the questionnaire to make it more comprehensive and focussing on a reduced recall period of one week instead of a year,” said one of the committee members, on the condition of anonymity.

It is felt that the existing set of questions on workforce participation are not comparable with international standards.

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More detailed follow-up questions are needed to holistically capture the economic activity as there is not a clear distinction between economic activity and household work, more so in rural areas, the person quoted above said.

The changes proposed by the committee, if accepted by the government, could only be taken into consideration for computing data for the financial year 2022-23 as the new questionnaire will have to undergo pilot tests before it replaces the existing one.

The World Bank estimates show that India has one of the lowest female labour force participation rates in the world with less than a third of women, defined as 15 years or older, working or actively looking for a job. It had estimated the female labour participation rate in India at 20.3% in 2019 from more than 26% in 2005. This is much lower compared with 30.5% in Bangladesh and 33.7% in Sri Lanka.

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The periodic labour force survey by Mospi had estimated female labour force participation rate in India at 17.5% in 2017-18, 18.6% in 2018-19 and 22.8% in 2019-20. Female labour participation rate in urban India, however, had fallen to a record low of 15.5% in the April-June 2020, which was the first quarter of the lockdown and improved marginally to 16.1% during the July-September 2020 quarter and to 20.6% in the October-December quarter.



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