IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


25th October, 2023 Economy

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Context: The data from the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) for 2022-23 highlights some important trends and challenges in the Indian labour market, particularly in the context of post-pandemic recovery.


  • The recent data from the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) of 2022-23 paints a complex picture of the Indian labour market. On the surface, the increase in labour force participation rates (LFPRs) among rural women is a positive development, indicating a greater inclusion of this demographic group in the workforce.
  • However, the nature of employment and earnings raises important concerns about the quality of jobs and the overall well-being of workers, particularly women.

Shift towards Self-Employment

  • The rise in self-employment, while providing opportunities for entrepreneurship, often means unstable income and lack of social security benefits. Self-employed individuals, especially in informal sectors, face challenges in terms of job security and income stability. This shift might indicate a lack of formal job opportunities in the market.

Increase in Unpaid Family Helpers

  • The increase in the proportion of women working as unpaid family helpers is concerning. While these roles are essential for many households, they often lack legal protections, job security, and fair compensation. This kind of work is typically characterized by long hours and little to no monetary remuneration.

Decline in Regular Wage Work

  • The decrease in the percentage of women engaged in regular wage work is alarming. Regular wage employment usually offers more stability, benefits, and legal protections compared to informal or self-employment. The decline might be indicative of challenges faced by women in accessing formal employment opportunities.

Impact of Inflation

  • The rise in wages is positive, but if the rate of inflation is higher than the growth in earnings, real wages decrease. Inflation erodes the purchasing power of individuals, making it difficult for them to afford essential goods and services. This situation can particularly affect low-income households, leading to a decline in their standard of living.

Policymakers need to address several key issues

●Promoting Decent Work: There is a need to create more formal employment opportunities with decent working conditions, fair wages, and legal protections. This includes ensuring that labour laws are effectively enforced and that informal sector workers receive social security benefits.

●Skills Development: Investing in education and skills development can empower individuals, especially women, to access better job opportunities. Vocational training programs aligned with market demands can enhance employability.

●Addressing Gender Disparities: Gender-specific barriers to employment, such as lack of access to education and social norms, need to be dismantled. Policies promoting gender equality in the workforce, including equal pay for equal work, can encourage women's participation in the labour market.

●Monitoring Inflation: Efforts should be made to stabilize inflation to prevent a decline in real wages. This might involve fiscal and monetary policies aimed at controlling inflationary pressures in the economy.

Changes in real earnings of different segments of the workforce

Casual Workers

●Both male and female casual workers, in both urban and rural areas, experienced a net increase in their average real monthly earnings between 2019 and 2023.

●Women casual workers saw a substantial increase of 13% in their real earnings.

●Male casual workers had a 10.33% increase in their real earnings.

Regular Wage Workers

●Women in regular-wage work experienced a 4.27% increase in real earnings.

●However, urban women in this category saw a 2.34% reduction in their real earnings in 2023 compared to 2019.

●Rural women in regular wage employment had the highest gains among all groups, with a significant 27.5% increase in monthly real earnings in 2023 compared to 2019. However, this cohort represents a smaller proportion of the rural female workforce.

Self-Employed Workers

●Male self-employed workers experienced a 6.9% increase in their real earnings.

●Urban male self-employed workers saw a reduction in real earnings.

●Rural male self-employed workers saw a substantial 14.67% increase in real earnings in 2023 compared to 2019.

●It's important to note that the figures for self-employed workers may not provide a complete picture since they do not include those who reported zero incomes.

Inflation Impact

●Inflation significantly impacted the gains of workers during this period, leading to lesser real earnings for most workers in 2023 compared to the pre-pandemic period.

Impact of inflation on different segments of the workforce

Impact of Inflation on Rural Women in Self-Employment


●The period saw a rise in the share of rural women in paid forms of self-employment from 22% to 28%. This indicates an increase in job opportunities within the self-employment sector for rural women.

●Despite the increase in employment, the average monthly real gross earnings for these women reduced by 7.72%. Real earnings refer to earnings adjusted for inflation.

β—‹This decrease suggests that although more women found jobs, their income did not keep pace with the rising cost of living. Several factors could contribute to this, such as low-paying jobs or the types of businesses they were engaged in.

●Many rural women might have entered low-paying, low-productivity jobs, possibly to supplement household incomes after the pandemic. This kind of employment might not offer substantial earnings, especially if the jobs are in sectors with traditionally low wages.

Impact of Inflation on the Broader Workforce

●Rural and urban self-employed men experienced substantial gains in real earnings, with a rise of 9.27% and 8.9%, respectively. This increase suggests that the moderation of inflation allowed self-employed men to enjoy higher purchasing power and increased earnings.

●Rural self-employed women saw a modest increase in real earnings by 2.14%, while their urban counterparts experienced a gain of 4.2%. Although the increase was not as significant as that of men, it still indicates a positive impact, albeit relatively smaller.

●Wage workers, both casual and regular, experienced limited gains in real earnings. The only significant growth was seen in rural women engaged in regular wage employment, with a notable increase of 35.5%. This could imply that there might have been changes in labour policies or wage rates specifically favouring this group, leading to substantial income growth.

●Despite the moderation of inflation, urban women in casual employment did not experience a rise in real earnings. This anomaly could be due to various factors such as the nature of jobs, demand and supply dynamics in the labour market, or specific economic policies affecting this particular group negatively.


  • While the data shows a general improvement in the labour market, it also underscores the need to address issues related to the quality of employment, including wages, working conditions, and job stability. The disparities between urban and rural workers, as well as the differential impact of inflation, highlight the complexity of India's post-pandemic economic recovery. Further analysis and policy interventions may be required to ensure a more equitable and sustainable recovery for all segments of the workforce.

Must Read Articles:

Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS): https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/6th-periodic-labour-force-survey-plfs-data#:~:text=The%20Periodic%20Labour%20Force%20Survey%20(PLFS)%20is%20a%20quarterly%20survey,in%20rural%20and%20urban%20areas.

Unemployment Rate Declines: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/unemployment-rate-declines


Q. What are the key factors contributing to the unemployment problem in India and what strategies can the government implement to address this issue and promote sustainable employment opportunities for its growing population?