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Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research

Defeminisation of work in rural India over the long term

27 October 2015

Speaker: Professor Wendy Olsen, Professor of Socio-Economics, CMIST

'Female Labour Supply in India 1983-2011'

India had a declining labour force participation for women 2004-2011.  There were positive real rates of economic growth during the same time period. Higher female formal education over this period should have raised the labour-force participation rate.  Countervailing factors create a puzzle of ‘missing women’, also called defeminisation. Using national data on economic activity, we provide a novel analysis of India’s rural women using 1983-2011 data and a synthetic panel data approach. The paper is enhanced by a theoretical shift, examining labour participation in narrow, medium and wide definitions. 

The main achievement is to decompose the change in labour supply of women according to explained factors and unexplained factors, taking advantage of data from National Sample Surveys for 1983, 1993, 2005, and 2012. We use synthetic panel data analysis. We use probit regressions of labour supply.

Ultimately there was a downward shift of the whole U-curve of women’s work over education.  Variations around this associated with demographic changes are described in detail.  No major alteration has occurred in the breadwinner model which is widely found in rural India.  New forms of household, such as the joint household living locally and the household with an absent temporary migrant male, may influence the women’s participation.