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Education, Caste and Women’s Work in India

Amrita Datta (), Tanuka Endow () and Balwant Singh Mehta ()
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Amrita Datta: Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad
Tanuka Endow: Institute for Human Development
Balwant Singh Mehta: Institute for Human Development

The Indian Journal of Labour Economics, 2020, vol. 63, issue 2, No 9, 387-406

Abstract: Abstract Based on the Periodic Labour Force Survey (2017–2018), this paper explores women’s labour market participation and employment patterns mediated by education and caste, with a focus on highly educated women. We find that women’s workforce participation follows a clear caste pattern, with the upper castes having the lowest work participation rates and this increases as we go down the caste hierarchy. These differences narrow down among highly educated women (graduate and above), particularly in urban areas. Considering the workforce participation rate (WPR) by education, female WPR by education class follows a U-shape and this holds across castes. Caste patterns persist in work status; in the female labour force in urban areas, general-caste women are more likely to be in regular employment characterised by employment stability than the other social groups. Among regular workers, Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) women are more likely to work in the public sector—a likely result of affirmative action policies of the state. However, while the policy of reservations may have worked in favour of SC/ST communities in terms of accessing public employment, it has not translated to access to good-quality jobs as caste patterns permeate into industry and occupation. Regression results show that caste and education emerge as important variables that explain women’s workforce participation, and the interaction effect of caste and education is critical in understanding women’s work participation. That accessing education even at the highest levels does not level the gap between social groups in terms of WPR implying that policies aimed towards increasing female employment therefore need to be nuanced to take into account the hetegeneous nature of the women workers, even for the highly educated segment.

Keywords: Female labour force participation; Women’s work; Caste; Education (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1007/s41027-020-00219-4

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