Women, marriage and labour market participation


The declining trend in women’s labour force participation is a significant concern, as it has consequences not only for women’s economic empowerment but also for overall economic progress.


GS-02 (Issues Related to Women, Gender, Employment, Issues Relating to Development)

Mains Question:

Analyze the factors contributing to the declining labour force participation of women and discuss the economic implications of this trend. (150 words)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Global Trends in Women’s Labour Force Participation
  • Challenges Faced by Married Women
  • Labour Market Entry and Gender Disparities
  • Solutions to Promote Women’s Empowerment

Global Trends in Women’s Labour Force Participation:

  • Globally, the women participation in the labour force remains relatively low.
  • According to World Bank in 2022, the global LFPR for women was 47.3%. Despite advancements in global economies, the LFPR of women in developing nations has seen a persistent decline.
  • In India, the female LFPR had dropped from 28% to 24% between 1990 and 2022. This decline has hindered women’s economic growth and their ability to fulfill their potential.
  • Economist Claudia Goldin (1994) has noted that the LFPR of adult women exhibits a U-shaped pattern during economic growth. Initially, this decline is attributed to the transition from household and family-based production to the broader market, along with a strong income effect. However, as economies progress, the income effect weakens, and the substitution effect strengthens.

Challenges Faced by Married Women:

  • After marriage, many factors lead to a decrease in women’s LFPR which include limited educational opportunities, reduced mobility due to growing family responsibilities, and societal resistance to women working outside their homes.
  • Marriage often amplifies domestic obligations and introduces social and cultural barriers that affect women’s ability to engage in the workforce.
  • Various factors contribute to the reduced labour force participation of married women. These factors include religious and caste affiliations, geographical location, household wealth, and societal norms related to women’s employment.

Labour Market Entry and Gender Disparities:

  • When women decide to re-enter the workforce after marriage, they often prefer job opportunities that offer flexibility and are close to their homes. Women also face gender-based professional costs due to societal constraints, which lead to disparities in career choices, income, age at marriage, and fertility decisions.
  • Higher strata women tend to adhere to traditional roles, focusing on domestic responsibilities.
  • In contrast, women from lower strata are more likely to work outside the home due to economic necessity driven by poverty.
  • Analyzing the Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLFPR) based on the Usual Principal Status (UPS) and Usual Principal and Subsidiary Status (UPSS) categories in India’s NSSO Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) reveals a significant difference in employment rates for married women.
  • Data shows that marriage has a substantial impact on women’s labour market outcomes.

Solutions to Promote Women’s Empowerment:

  • To address this issue, it is crucial to consider solutions that empower women during a period of economic growth.
  • Improve accessibility and quality of day-care services for employed women. The absence of such services often discourages female labour force participation.
  • Initiatives like the National Creche Scheme for The Children of Working Mothers are steps in the right direction, but the implementation of such schemes, both in the public and private sectors, is imperative.
  • Creating work environments that prioritize women’s needs and well-being, providing secure transportation options, and expanding part-time job opportunities can serve as catalysts for greater female labour force participation in India.


The declining participation of women in the labour force, particularly after marriage, presents a complex challenge with significant economic implications. Empowering women in the workforce is not only a matter of economic necessity but also a fundamental step toward gender equality and inclusive economic growth.