GenderStats 8: Women leave the workforce

13 January 2022

Ankur Bhardwaj

Ankur Bhardwaj

Editor, Centre for Economic Data and Analysis

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Figure 1


Figure 2


Female labour participation rate in India had fallen to 16.1 percent during July-September 2020, as per a government report. This was the result of the Covid-19 pandemic affecting the Indian economy and job market. How has female employment and female share in the labour force changed over the years?

In this post, we look at employment data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) to see trends in male and female employment between 2016 and 2021. Using monthly male and female employment data from January 2016 to November 2021, we try to understand the changes in employment and India’s labour force over these six years.

Figure 1 shows the number of men and women employed in a month on average in every quarter from Q1 – 2016 (Jan-Mar 2016) to Q4 – 2021 (Oct-Dec 2021). Male employment is plotted on the primary vertical axis while female employment is plotted on the secondary vertical axis. Through these 24 quarters, we observe that average male monthly employment has mostly remained steady. The two big dips in male employment are observed in Q2 – 2020 (Apr-Jun 2020) and Q2 – 2021 (Apr-Jun 2021). We are aware that while Q2 – 2020 was the period when the country saw the first wave of national lockdowns after the Covid-19 pandemic struck, Q2 – 2021 was the period when a strong second wave of the pandemic affected national health and economy.

While male employment has mostly remained steady over these 6 years, female employment has steadily declined. From the high of 55.3 million monthly average employment in Q2 – 2016 (Apr-Jun 2016), it has declined to just 40.5 million in Q4 – 2021. 

However, Figure 1 reveals only half the story. Figure 2 shows us the number of men and women who are unemployed, willing to work and actively looking for jobs (UEWL) between Q1 – 2016 and Q4 – 2021. This shows us that while male UEWL numbers declined sharply in 2017 they recovered in subsequent years and have been on a rising trend since. The story for female UEWL numbers is strikingly different. Female UEWL numbers first declined sharply to 11.9 million in Q4 – 2016 and have only declined since and fallen below men since the start of the pandemic. 

When we combine the findings of figures 1 and 2, we can conclude that not only are fewer women working now, even fewer are willing to work and actively searching for jobs.

“GenderStats by CEDA” is a new series by the Centre for Economic Data and Analysis on the Picture This page. With the help of graphs, we will highlight the socio-economic and health status of Indian women and help understand their position vis-à-vis Indian men and other women in the rest of the world. If you have a suggestion for us or if there is an indicator that you would like us to focus on, please write to us at


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