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Are Female Headed Households in Distress? Recent Evidence from Indian Labour Market

Mukherjee, Nandini and Ray, Jhilam (2014): Are Female Headed Households in Distress? Recent Evidence from Indian Labour Market.

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Abstract : Acknowledging women as economic agents with their direct contribution to growth continues to remain the focus of the nation among it’s various objectives even in the Twelfth Plan which suggest various ways of making economic growth truly inclusive . In order to be inclusive the nature and the composition of growth should be such that it should include the poor, particularly the excluded/ marginalised group like women and the disadvantaged socio-economic group. If women lack sufficient decent work opportunities and continue to remain excluded from the main stream economy and cannot contribute to the development process as economic agents for a considerable period of time then can have serious implications for future growth of Indian economy. In India recently there is a debate regarding “Missing female labour” where some portrayed this decline as a positive effect due to rising participation in education among young females and others claim that it was crowding-out of female labour in the face of agricultural stagnation and slowdown of economic growth. The objective of the present paper is to investigate the present status of households headed by female in rural and urban India and examine their demographic structure and employment pattern in comparison to male headed households using unit level data of NSSO employment and Unemployment (68th Round). The paper also look into the difference across various socio religious groups. We found that existence of Female headed household(FHH) arising out of several factors mainly absence of male member viz, widowhood, divorce, separation and desertion,migration of male members for long periods etc. The educational status of female head is poor compare to the male head and this results into lower capability and skill of the female head and resulting poor socio-economic condition. A significant section of female headed household (FHHs)is single membered. Average amount of land owned by FHH is much lower that the male headed household. It is found that nearly 60% of female head are not in labour force and are either attending education or engaged in domestic duty. This exclusion from labour market may work as a hindrance for further empowerment. It can be observed that a significant section of women above 15+ age group are attending educational institute .The low rate of participation of women in wage employment is an issue of concern and debate. The present of socio-economic condition and growth process need to be much more inclusive to distribute the beneficiaries of growth and economic progress if it is to function in an effective manner. The results of economic reforms and it’s impact on all the marginal section of the society need to be examined carefully. Across tribal group women of FHHs have larger presence as own account worker than women of Male Headed Households (MHH). Interestingly higher percentage of women of tribal group and Scheduled caste (SC) from FHHs are engaged as wage worker. Around 11% of tribal women from FHHs are working as regular/salaried employee. Again women from muslim group has lower presence in this category. Though women from MHHs are in less percentage share compared to FHHs, presence of upper caste Hindu s are higher as regular wage employee who are coming from MHHs. Again Muslim women from MHHs are less in number. A large section of SC, ST women both from MHHs and FHHs are working as casual worker. This may be a distress drive phenomenon. A small percentage of women from Hindu upper caste coming from MHHs as well as FHHs are working as casual workers compared to other socio-religious group. This indicate that casual employment among women is high among the so called backward group though for the Muslim women it is low. Women from Muslim group both in case of MHHs and FHHs have very low percentage participation in the labour market. More than 70% from FHHs and 77% from MHHs of Muslim women are not in the labour force. Nearly 45-50 % Muslim women are engaged in domestic work and other work along with domestic duty. Surprisingly such percentage is also high for women of upper Hindu coming from MHHs (nearly 36%). This indicate that along with the backward group like Muslim women, the so called higher Hindu upper caste women are also less in the labour market. Among the poor worker from FHHs 46% of them are engaged in crop related activity, 11% in building works, 7% in retail trade, 4% incivil engineering related activities. A large section of SC, ST women both from MHHs and FHHs are working as casual worker. A significant portion of Women of FHH are present in retail trade, tobacco manufacturing , and building construction. The nature of job as well the other conditions in these sectors generally not suitable for the women. Still women from FHH has higher presence in this sectors than women from MHH indicating a distress driven participation. The policy need to be more inclusive in nature and it requires on the one hand larger capacity building and skill development for women of all section and on the other generation of awareness regarding equality in terms of dignity, opportunity and right.

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