State of (Un) Employment in India

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April 28, 2022

What is the issue?

Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data shows that India’s labour force participation rate (LFPR) has fallen to 40% from an already low 47% in 2016.

What is LFPR?

  • Unemployment- The term unemployment refers to a situation when a person who is actively searching for employment is unable to find work.
  • Labour force- According to the CMIE, the labour force consists of persons who are of age 15 years or older, and belong to either of the following two categories
    • Are employed
    • Are unemployed and are willing to work and are actively looking for a job
  • LFPR-The labour force participation rate indicates the percentage of all people of working age who are employed or are actively seeking work.
  • It is calculated as the labour force divided by the total working-age population.
  • UER- The Unemployment Rate (UER) is nothing but the number of unemployed as a proportion of the labour force.
  • Significance of LFPR in India- In India, the LFPR is falling which in turn, affects the UER because LFPR is the base on which UER is calculated.
  • Merely looking at UER will under-report the stress of unemployment in India.

The world over, LFPR is around 60%. In India, it has been sliding over the last 10 years and has shrunk from 47% in 2016 to just 40% as of December 2021.


What is the correct way to assess India’s unemployment stress?

  • When LFPR is falling steadily and sharply in India’s case, it is better to track the Employment Rate (ER).
  • The ER refers to the total number of employed people as a percentage of the working-age population.
  • The ER captures the fall in LFPR to better represent the stress in the labour market.

What is the reason for India’s low LFPR?

  • Low level of female LFPR- less than one in 10 working-age women in India are even demanding work.
  • As per the World Bank data, India’s female labour force participation rate is around 25% when the global average is 47%.
  • Reasons
    • Working conditions- law and order, efficient public transportation, violence against women, societal norms etc. are far from conducive for women to seek work
    • The other has to do with correctly measuring women’s contribution to the economy.
    • It is also a question of adequate job opportunities for women.



  1. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/unemployment-labour-force-participation-rate-india-economy-explained-7890638/
  2. https://data.oecd.org/emp/labour-force-participation-rate.htm
  3. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/u/unemployment.asp


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