Press Release

Major Findings of the Study on Gender Analysis of Labour Market Outcomes in Rural Kerala

A new study conducted among youth (aged 18-40 years), finds strong gender differences in the labour market behaviour of rural youth.  The study titled “Gender Analysis of Labour Market Outcomes” was led by Dr Rakkee Thimothy, Anagha C.R., Swathy Mohanan, Jayan K.M and Bibin Thambi, researchers at CSES.  The village level study covered the employment and unemployment of youth in 644 households in Maneed Panchayat in Ernakulam district.  Major results from the study are as follows:

Low Participation in Work

The proportion of young women (aged 18-40 years) who are employed is less than half that of men- 33 per cent for women and 70 per cent for men. The work participation rate for men is 100 per cent in the 36-40 age group and 91 per cent in the age group of 31-35 years.  Thus, almost all the young men aged above 30 years are employed while only 45 per cent of the women in the same age group are employed. Even in the 26-30 age group, 87 per cent of the men are employed as against just 41 per cent women.

Work Participation Rate among Youth (%)

While there is not much difference in work participation of men between Schedule Caste and forward communities, there is a significant difference in the female work participation between these two groups (27% for SC and 40% for General category).  This implies that women belonging to the S.C. category are particularly disadvantaged in their access to employment.  The situation of women belonging to Other Backward Communities (OBC) is also not much different from that of S.C. women.

Neither working nor looking for a job

The study finds that almost all men aged above 26 years are either employed or searching for jobs, therefore, are part of the labour force.  As against this, 20 per cent of women in the age group 26-30 years, 25 per cent in the age group 31-35 years, and 27 per cent in the 36-40 age group are not seeking employment even though they are not currently employed. Thus, the study points to the alarming picture of the low work participation rate of women and the trend of women exiting from the labour force for many reasons. 

Service Sector emerges as the Main Employment Provider

The service sector accounts for the majority of the employment in the study village, partially due to its proximity to Kochi city.  While 79 per cent of the employed women are in the service sector, only 49 per cent of men work in the service sector. Nearly half of the women in the service sector are employed in the education and health care sectors. On the other hand, 44 per cent of the employed men are engaged in the secondary sector, which includes manufacturing and construction, as against just 18 per cent of employed women. Just 2 per cent of men and 1 per cent of women are engaged in agriculture and allied sectors.   

Women Unemployment: A Pressing Problem

The study finds that there is  significant difference in the unemployment rate between men and women.  As against  13 per cent for men, the unemployment rate for women is 43 per cent.  The study also finds that unemployment among men is mainly in the age group 18-25.  It is 9 per cent in the 31-35 year age group and nil in the 36-40 year age group.  On the other hand, the unemployment rate among women is as high as 40 per cent in the 31-35 age group and 27 per cent among the 36-40 age group.

Age Group18-25 yrs26-30 yrs31-35 yrs36-40 yrsOverall
Male3111913
Female5449402743
Total4132231327
Unemployment Rate among Youth (%)

 The study finds that marriage and family issues limit the work participation of women.  When asked about the reasons for unemployment, 58 per cent of the women who are currently unemployed but are seeking employment reported that the compulsions of marriage, childbirth and family responsibilities adversely affected their employment prospects. Only 4 per cent of the unemployed men cited such reasons. Some of the currently unemployed youth held a job previously.  When they were asked to give the reasons to quit the previous job, 61 per cent of females reported marriage and/family responsibilities as a reason against just 6 per cent of men reporting so.  About one-third (32%) of the women who changed jobs in the past did so because of family responsibilities/marriage, while the corresponding proportion for men is only 4 per cent.  A few women job seekers also reported that they had refused job offers in the past due to lack of approval of family, long commuting distance, childbirth, and difficulty managing household duties. 

Pattern of Job Search

The study finds a significant difference in the intensity of job search by men and women.  The unemployed youth who are currently searching for jobs were asked about the number of job applications they have submitted during the six months preceding the survey.  While 57 per cent of women who are currently searching for jobs have not applied for a single job during the last six months, the corresponding proportion for men is only 24 per cent.  This implies that the unemployed men are more active in job search compared to unemployed women. 

Job Preference

Previous studies have suggested that the strong preference for government jobs contributes to high unemployment among the youth in Kerala.  But only 12 per cent of unemployed women and 8 per cent of unemployed men expressed a preference for government jobs.  The study also found that there is not much inclination towards self-employment or for starting own enterprises. Only 8 per cent of male job seekers and 3 per cent of female job seekers are open to the idea of self-employment or starting enterprises on their own. But data from the survey points towards a strong preference to obtain a job near their home among female job seekers, perhaps conditioned by social and cultural norms. While three-fourths of the male job seekers are open to working anywhere, nearly three-fourths of female job seekers prefer a job near their current residence.  This would essentially limit the scope of their job search, which, in turn, adversely affect their job prospects. 

Work while Studying gaining Popularity

A good feature of the labour market behaviour observed in the study is that some of the students aged above 18 years get engaged in part-time work while studying.  It was noted that 15 per cent of male students and 4 per cent of female students engage in part-time jobs as they attend educational institutions. Some of the students are also attending coaching classes to facilitate entry into the labour market, more so among women (10%) than men (6%).   

Towards Women Inclusive Labour Market

The study concludes that gender conditioning affects individuals’ aspirations and labour market outcomes, and very often, women are at the receiving end. A conscious effort is required to change the ‘male breadwinner model’ and accept that both males and females need to play an equal role in society and family. A major factor cited for women’s withdrawal from the labour market is to fulfil family and childcare responsibilities. There is a need to evaluate to what extent child and elderly care facilities in the state meet the requirements of working persons and develop a strategy to encourage greater participation of women in the labour force. This could be achieved by skill training/upgradation, job fairs targeting women, strengthening self employment programmes or providing incentives to organisations that facilitate re-entry of women to the labour market. Further, the study calls for ¬†creating awareness among men to share household/caring duties.

For more details, contact Dr. Rakkee Thimothy (9873101227)