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Mains   > Society   >   Role of women   >   Women and Child issues


  • Claudia Goldin’s recent Nobel Prize in Economics has reignited a crucial discussion on the participation of women in the workforce.


  • Claudia Goldin won the 2023 Nobel Prize in economics for her work exposing the causes of deeply rooted wage and labour market inequality between men and women, especially in the current scenario where women are vastly underrepresented in the labour market.
  • For instance, despite the fact that more women than men were enrolled in higher education in India in 2020–21, the labour force participation rate (LFPR) among women with secondary education or higher was 29.2%, less than half that of their male peers (73.1%), as per the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) report for 2022–23.


1. U-shaped hypothesis


  • Goldin's findings indicate that female participation in the labour market does not follow a steady upward trajectory over time. Instead, it takes the shape of a “U-shaped curve”.
  • Goldin’s U-shaped hypothesis posits that female participation rates are highest in poor countries, where women are engaged in subsistence activities, and fall in middle-income countries because of the transition of men to industrial jobs. As education levels improve and fertility rates fall, women are able to join the labour force in response to growing demand in the services sector.


2. Contraceptive pills and improvements in female work participation

  • Claudia attributed the growth in the work participation of women not just to improvements in education and social expectations but also to the development of the contraceptive pill in the United States.
  • The introduction of the birth control pill by the Federal Drug Administration in 1960 allowed women to delay childbirth and marriage. This translated into greater enrolment in post-graduate courses and a rise in the participation of educated women in the job market throughout the latter part of the 20th century.

3. Gender gap in earnings

  • According to Goldin, despite modernization, economic growth, and an increasing proportion of women in the workforce during the 20th century, the gender earnings gap still remains wide.
  • Historically, much of the gender gap in earnings could be explained by differences in education and occupational choices; however, Goldin has shown that the bulk of this earnings difference is now between men and women in the same occupation and that it largely arises with the birth of the first child.

3. 'Greedy jobs'

  • According to Goldin, 'Greedy jobs' are careers that require significant time and attention from workers and are more likely to reward those who are available at all times—think doctors, lawyers, and senior corporate executives. The value of greedy jobs has greatly increased over time. This means that either the man or the woman must be employed in a “greedy job” to have a substantial family income.
  • Traditionally, men have been able to have a family and “step up” in terms of careers, including 'greedy jobs, because women “step back” from their careers for the family.


  • U-shaped hypothesis:
    • The decline in the 1980s and 90s can be explained by the Goldin’s U-shaped hypothesis. But despite experiencing the structural changes such as decline in fertility rates and expansion of women’s education, Indian FLFPR is on a downward track.
  • Gendered division of labour:
    • The cultural norms place the primary responsibility of routine domestic tasks on women. This limits their ability to participate in the labour market.
    • India’s female-to-male ratio of time devoted to unpaid care work stands at 9.83, which is the third highest in the world.
  • Glass ceiling effect:
    • It represents a barrier that prohibits women from advancing toward the top of a hierarchical corporation, regardless of their qualifications and achievements. There are only 29% women in senior management positions worldwide.
  • Safety concerns:
  • Reluctance to recruit:
    • As per the India Skills Report 2022, as many as 55.44% of women were considered highly employable, but the number of females being employed is lesser than that of males. This can be a result of 3Ms: marriage, maternity and mobility.
  • Poor working conditions:
    • Up to 91% of women in paid jobs are in the informal sector. Low wages, lack of social security, poor working conditions here discourage women from seeking employment.
  • Differential pay:
    • The gender pay gap in India is among the widest in the world, with women, on an average, earning 21% of the income of men, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021.
  • Digital divide:
    • Only 25% of females in India own a mobile phone compared to 41% of men. Moreover, only 35% of Indian women use the internet, reducing their opportunities.
  • Social conditioning:
    • The nurturing in a casteist-patriarchal society like India does not factor in the elements of gender sensitivity. Women are usually considered second-class citizens and subordinate to men, which influence labour mobility.
  • Stereotypical gender biases:
    • Women tend to be side-lined to occupations perceived as unskilled and “low-value”, particularly in care jobs.
  • Mechanisation:
    • Machines in agriculture, like seed drills and threshers, have reduced manual jobs that were mostly performed by women.
    • India’s manufacturing sector has not created labour intensive jobs that could be taken up by women who have been displaced from agriculture.
  • Inaccuracies in calculation:
    • There are serious inaccuracies in recording women’s contribution to economic activity. For instance, the methods used to measure GDP are criticised for excluding the unpaid work done by women. Hence, the dignity of women’s efforts remains unrecognised.



  • Article 14: Equality before law for women.
  • Article 15 (3): The State shall make any special provision in favour of women and children.
  • Article 39 (D): equal pay for equal work for both men and women
  • Article 39 A: To promote justice, on a basis of equal opportunity and to provide free legal aid to all.
  • Article 42: The State to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.
  • Article 51(A)(e): To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.


  • Code on Wages, 2019:
    • It subsumes the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. It provides for payment of equal remuneration to men and women workers for same work or work of similar nature without any discrimination.
  • Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017:
    • It provides for enhancement in paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks and provisions for mandatory crèche facility in establishments having 50 or more employees.
  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
    • Aims to provide every woman, irrespective of her age or employment status, a safe and secure working environment free from all forms of harassment.
    • Provides for the establishment of committees to provide a forum for filing complaints to facilitate fast redressal of the grievances
  • Right to education Act


  • National Commission for Women
  • Network of women Industrial Training institutes and National Skill Training Institutes for Women
  •  Mahila Shakti Kendras (MSK)


  • Mission Shakti:
    • An integrated women empowerment programme aimed at strengthening interventions for women safety, security and empowerment. 
    • ‘Mission Shakti’ has two sub-schemes - 'Sambal' and 'Samarthya':
      • "Sambal" sub-scheme is for safety and security of women. It consists of schemes of One Stop Centre (OSC), Women Helpline (WHL), Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) and Nari Adalats
      • "Samarthya" sub-scheme is for empowerment of women. It consists of erstwhile schemes of Ujjwala, Swadhar Greh and Working Women Hostel
  • Nirbhaya Fund:
    • Post-2012 Nirbhaya case, a dedicated non lapsable fund was set up in 2013 with the focus on implementing the initiatives aimed at improving the security and safety of women in India.
  • Skill India mission
  • MUDRA Yojana
  • Sector specific schemes:
    • Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN) Scheme and SERB – POWER to mitigate gender disparity in science and engineering research.
  • Self Help Groups(SHG):
    • India has around 1.2 crore SHGs, 88% of them all women. SHG success stories include Kudumbashree in Kerala, Jeevika in Bihar, and Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahamandal in Maharashtra.


  • Gender mainstreaming in the Budget 2022 by 11%
  • Acknowledging women’s efforts through Nari Shakti Puraskar, Rajya Mahila Samman etc.
  • Draft national policy for women, 2016
  • National Career Service (NCS) Project which comprises a digital portal that provides a nation-wide online platform for jobseekers and employers for job matching.


  • Establish gender-based employment targets for urban public works by government.
  • Offering wage subsidies, especially to MSMEs for hiring women, and financial support to cover costs of maternity leave and creche facilities.
  • Tax benefits to private companies that provide employment to a significant proportion of women, say 30 percent women workers.
  • Governments can consider increasing targets for procurement from women-led enterprises.
  • Increasing public investment in the care sector to redistribute the burden of unpaid work and increase demand for care workers.
  • Incentive-based, course-wise gender-based targets for skill training under Skill India mission
  • Development of gender-sensitive infrastructure like separate washrooms at workplaces and hostels.
  • Design flexible, hybrid work policies to enable work from home for women.
  • Stringent action against sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination.
  • Strengthen microfinance system to ensure adequate credit supply to female entrepreneurs.
  • As envisaged by India's G20 Presidency, the focus shifts from women’s development to women-led development.


Q. There is a paradoxical trend in India’s economic development that is not reflected in its female labour force participation rate. Analyse the reasons for this and suggest measures to improve the situation.(