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Gender and Wage Disparity in Private and Public Sector Employment in India

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Despite efforts to promote gender equality, the gender pay gap in India persists, with women earning only 18% of the labour income. Explore the causes, state-wise breakdown, and solutions in enhancing female labor force participation.

The gender pay gap in India remains a significant issue, with men earning 82% of the labour income, and women earning a mere 18%. This disparity is influenced by various factors, including socio-cultural norms, systemic biases, and low representation of women in the workforce. Despite efforts to promote gender equality, the wage gap continues to widen, especially at higher wage levels.

The Global Gender Gap Report 2021 highlighted that women in India were paid only 21% of men's income on average.

State-wise Breakdown

State-wise breakdown of employment in the organized sector shows that the highest employment is in Maharashtra, followed by Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Karnataka. The data available from the employment exchanges in the country indicate that the main employment generating activities are agriculture and allied, trade, restaurant and hotels including tourism, some of the social sectors like education and health, and the small and medium enterprises.

State-wise Workers Ratio for age 15 years & above during 2019-2020 and 2020-21: All India (Rural+Urban)                           (Percentage)

Sr. No.










1Andhra Pradesh74.137.655.573.843.958.6
2Arunachal Pradesh64.720.844.369.725.148.5
10Himachal Pradesh78.463.170.578.461.169.5
14Madhya Pradesh77.137.257.779.440.160.2
24Tamil Nadu73.538.355.374.340.856.9
28Uttar Pradesh72.417.245.173.821.948.0
29West Bengal76.123.149.778.428.153.0
30Andaman & N. Island71.225.949.877.837.458.2
32Dadra & Nagar Haveli85.852.372.
33Daman & Diu85.334.864.5
34Jammu & Kashmir71.233.152.570.539.955.5
All India73.028.750.973.531.452.6

Gender Breakdown

The latest Public Enterprises Survey reveals a concerning trend regarding the representation of women employees in central public sector enterprises (CPSEs). In the fiscal year 2020-21 (FY21), the share of women employees in CPSEs declined to 9.35%, down from 10% in the previous year (2019-20 or FY20). This decline signifies a widening gender gap within government-owned companies.

The proportion of women employees in CPSEs is notably lower compared to the overall female labor force participation rate in India.

The Periodic Labour Force Survey report for the period July 2020-June 2021, states that the all-India female labor force participation rate stood at 25.1%. This significant disparity highlights the need for initiatives to address gender imbalance and promote greater inclusivity within CPSEs and the broader workforce.

According to the IT industry chamber Nasscom, women currently make up 34% of the workforce in the IT and ITeS sector, which comprises 44.7 lakh employees. The IT industry's significant contribution of 8% to India's GDP in 2020 underscores its economic importance. This sustained growth in the IT sector holds promise for increasing opportunities for women in the workforce.

While the participation of women in the IT sector is promising, it does not fully reflect the overall female labor force in the country. Nasscom's data reveals that the percentage of women in IT exceeds that of the organized public sector (18.07%) and the organized private sector (24.3%). However, it falls short of the proportions seen in e-commerce (67.7%) and retail (52%).

Despite these variations, the increasing presence of women in the IT industry signals positive strides towards gender diversity and inclusivity in the workforce.

True, the participation of women in the workforce in India is a matter of concern, as indicated by recent data from the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2019-20 conducted by the National Statistical Office (NSO). The survey, which covers the period including the lockdown from March to June, highlights a decline in the overall participation of women in the labor force since 1987-88, alongside a widening gap between male and female labor force participation.

In 2019-20, the Female Labor Force Participation Rate (FLFPR) stood at 30%, down from 47% in 1987-88, for individuals aged 15 years and above. In contrast, men's LFPR was 77% in 2019-20, down from 92% in 1987-88. FLFPR encompasses both employed individuals and those seeking employment.

In urban areas, the FWPR was 21% in 2019-20, a decrease from 25% in 1987-88. More women were engaged in sectors such as hospitality, hotels, and restaurants, which were heavily impacted by job losses during the Covid-19 lockdowns. Conversely, there was a decline in the proportion of women working in manufacturing, professional, social, and government services sectors.

Similarly, rural FWPR dropped to 32% in 2019-20 from 53% in 1987-88, with women primarily working as wage laborers in the agriculture sector.

Furthermore, there has been a sluggish improvement in closing the wage gap between men and women. Female wages increased to 75% of male wages in 2019-20 from 71% in 2009-10. However, wages of female casual rural workers decreased to 64% from 68% of male wages during the same period.

The domestic situation regarding women's labor force participation is mirrored globally. In 2019, India ranked near the bottom of a list of 181 countries, slightly ahead of nations like Egypt, Palestine, Iran, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen, according to the World Bank. India not only lags behind China and the US but also trails Bangladesh and Nepal by a significant margin in terms of female workforce participation.

Gender Wage Disparity

Statistics indicate a notable pay gap between men and women who hold similar positions. The tables below offer a comparative analysis of the wages earned by female workers and their male counterparts.

Wages for Regular Salaried Employees in India [PLFS (2019-20)]

RuralINR 13,900 – 14,300INR 8,500 – 12,100
UrbanINR 19,200 – 21,600INR 15,300 – 17,300

Average Wages per day for Casual Labour (Other than Public Works) in India as per PLFS 2019-20

RuralINR 297 – 315INR 185 – 209
UrbanINR 375 – 391INR 243 – 265

Average Gross Earnings During Last 30 Days from Self-Employment Work in India (July 2019 – June 2020)

RuralINR 9,200 – 10,100INR 4,600 – 5,000
UrbanINR 14,500 – 17,800INR 6,900 – 7,700

Causes of Disparity Between Wages of Men and Women

The disparity in wages between men and women in India can be attributed to various factors, as highlighted in the search results:

1. Socio-Cultural Norms

Earning disparity in India is influenced by socio-cultural norms that historically limited women's economic independence and security.

2. Discriminatory practices

Discriminatory practices, such as lower wages for work of equal value, undervaluation of women's work, and a motherhood pay gap, contribute significantly to the gender pay gap.

3. Low Representation of Women

Women are often underrepresented in leadership roles that offer higher compensation, leading to unequal pay between genders.

4. Career Progression 

Women face challenges in career progression, with fewer opportunities for promotions and negotiations compared to their male counterparts.

5. Educational Decisions

Early educational decisions impact career opportunities, and if young women's expectations are shaped by previous generations' experiences, progress towards closing the gender pay gap may be slow.

6. Unconscious Biases

Unconscious biases in the workplace can lead to differential treatment of women, affecting their career advancement and compensation.

7. Gender-Based Skill and Educational Gaps

Disparities in skill development and educational opportunities between men and women contribute to wage discrepancies.

8. Motherhood Pay Gap

Women who are mothers often face lower wages compared to non-mothers, highlighting a specific challenge related to motherhood and employment.

Efforts to address these disparities include implementing equal pay policies, promoting flexible working arrangements, providing training opportunities for women, and enacting legislative reforms like the Minimum Wages Act and the Code on Wages to reduce the gender pay gap. Reducing the gender pay disparity is not only a matter of fairness but also has significant economic implications, with potential benefits for global GDP growth.

Solutions to Enhance Female Labour Force Participation in India

Increasing female labour force participation in India requires a multifaceted approach to address the existing challenges. Here are some solutions based on the search results:

1. Promoting Gender Equality

Implementing policies that focus on gender equality in the workplace, such as equal pay for equal work and strict anti-discrimination measures, can help create a more inclusive environment for women.

2. Enhancing Access to Education

Improving access to quality education for girls and women can empower them with the skills and knowledge needed to enter the workforce and pursue higher-paying jobs.

3. Supporting Work-Life Balance

Introducing flexible working arrangements, affordable childcare facilities, and parental leave policies can support women in balancing their work and family responsibilities, encouraging higher participation in the labour force.

4. Skill Development Programs

Offering skill development programs tailored to women's needs can enhance their employability and enable them to access better job opportunities.

5. Creating Awareness

Increasing awareness about women's rights in the workplace, including protection against discrimination and harassment, can empower women to assert their rights and participate more actively in the labour force.

6. Encouraging Entrepreneurship

Promoting entrepreneurship among women through financial support, training programs, and mentorship can enable them to start their businesses and contribute to economic growth.

7. Policy Reforms

Enacting supportive policies at the national level, such as maternity benefits, safe working conditions, and measures to address gender-based discrimination, can create a positive environment for women to enter and thrive in the workforce.

By implementing these solutions in a coordinated manner, India can work towards increasing female labour force participation rates, promoting gender equality, and harnessing the full potential of its workforce for sustainable economic growth.


In conclusion, addressing the wage disparity between men and women in India requires a comprehensive strategy that addresses systemic barriers, promotes gender equality, enhances access to education, supports work-life balance, provides skill development opportunities, increases awareness, encourages entrepreneurship, and implements policy reforms. By taking these steps, India can improve the economic outcomes for all workers, particularly women, and foster a more equitable society.