Agriculture in India, contributing about 15.5 per cent of GDP, is a female intensive activity. In a typical rural-agro household, women pursue multiple livelihood strategies often managing complex issues. Her activities vary from performing multiple farm operations for producing the crops, rearing animals, and preparing food to work for wages in agricultural or other rural enterprises, collecting fuel and water, engaging in trade and marketing, caring for family members and maintaining their homes. Though national account does not classify many of this economically active employment they are vital and essential to the well-being of rural households.
The Agriculture Census, 2015–16 has revealed a very promising trend. The census established that the share of female operational holders has increased from 12.79 per cent in 2010–11 to 13.87 per cent in 2015–16. In terms of the operated area, the share of women increased from 10.36 per cent to 11.57 per cent. This signifies that more and more females are participating in the management and operation of agricultural lands.
Agriculture and Female Employment
The central role in all operations of agriculture and even rural household management is played by women. They are involved in all aspects of agriculture, from crop and seed selection to harvest and post-harvest management, marketing, and processing. According to estimates, the agricultural sector employs about 4/5th of all economically active women. Women have a clear edge in dairying and animal husbandry also.
Close to 75 million women are engaged in dairying and 20 million in animal husbandry against 15 million men in dairying and 1.5 million in animal husbandry. Nevertheless, the percentage of female engaged in agriculture has been sizeable at 54.6percent in 2019 against 39.5 per cent of male. The contribution of female workers and farmers has been much larger in agriculture and allied activities than men. The withdrawal of women and men workforce from agriculture is a welcome move due to the empowerment of women through better education, alternative employment opportunities and access to rights and resources, etc.
In a developing nation like ours where urbanization is becoming a social development order, the large number of women needs to move out from agriculture to join services and industrial sector. When examining that of the participation of men, the decline is comparatively lower to that of women.
Women have been instrumental in agricultural development and rural prosperity.
Rural women play a vital role not only in crop planning and cultivation but also in high-value activities like horticulture, primary food processing, livestock rearing, fisheries and cottage industries.
Although women have been contributing dominantly in the rural labour force, they are marginalised and disadvantaged in wages, land rights and representation in group activities. Women have very limited access to productive resources which consequently limits their productivity. Somehow, the needs and aspirations of the women labour force could not get true focus in the rural development initiatives in the past.
Several out of box initiatives of the Government for skills development, subsidised loans for businesses led by women, recent legislation doubling maternity leave, and childcare facilities in companies that employ more than 50 people will have the far-reaching impact on women empowerment and give a boost to India’s economy. The number of women in the total workforce in India is only 27 per cent, and more seriously, almost 20 million women had withdrawn from the workforce during 2005 and 2012. On a global landscape, India ranked 120th among 131 countries so far as women workforce participation is concerned. Adding to woe is the worsening state of gender-based violence in India.