India’s female labor participation rate falls to 16.1 percent as pandemic hits jobs

NEW DELHI, Aug 3 (Reuters) – Female labor participation rate in India fell to 16.1 percent during the July-September 2020 quarter, the lowest among the major economies, a government report said, reflecting the impact of pandemic and a widening job crisis.

The percentage of women in the labor force had fallen to a record low of 15.5 percent during the April-June 2020 quarter, when India imposed strict lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 virus, said the report, released late Monday by the Ministry of Statistics.

According to World Bank estimates, India has one of the lowest female labor force participation rates in the world. Less than a third of women – defined in the report as 15 or older – are working or actively looking for a job.

The female labor participation rate in India had fallen to 20.3 percent in 2019 from more than 26 percent in 2005, according to World Bank estimates, compared with 30.5 percent in neighbouring Bangladesh and 33.7 percent in Sri Lanka.

Most employed women in India are in low-skilled work, such as farm and factory labor and domestic help, sectors that have been hit hard by the pandemic. read more

The unemployment rate among women touched 15.8 percent, compared with 12.6 percent among male workers during three months that ended in September 2020, the latest quarter for which data was released.

Most economic activities have resumed in the country after state governments eased pandemic curbs in response to a decline in coronavirus infections from May peaks. That is likely to help create more jobs for all workers, government officials said.

India’s July unemployment rate fell to 6.95 percent from the June figure of 9.17 percent, data from the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) showed on Monday.

Many private economists have warned that the slow pace of vaccination and a slump in consumer demand could hurt growth prospects, and the economy is unlikely to attain its pre-COVID size before March 2022.

Asia’s third-largest economy, which shrunk 7.3 percent in the fiscal year ending in March, the worst recession in last seven decades, is expected to grow at 8-9 percent year-on-year in the current fiscal year.

Reporting by Manoj Kumar. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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