Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) Quarterly Bulletin: April-June 2021


The National Statistical Office of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, initiated the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) in April 2017. The survey provides estimates for indicators such as the labour force participation rate (LFPR), the worker population ratio (WPR) and includes data on the employment status of workers and the sector (agriculture, secondary or tertiary) they work in. It also supplies data on the unemployment rate (UR) in the country. Data is calculated in urban areas as per the current weekly status (CWS), that is, “on the basis of a reference period of last seven days preceding the date of survey.” The results of the survey are released in the form of quarterly bulletins, each covering three months of the survey year.

This quarterly bulletin – covering the period of April to June 2021 – is the eleventh publication in the PLFS series. The data collection on the field for this report concluded in September 2021. The survey for this quarter covered 170,187 people from 43,892 households across 5,619 urban frame survey (UFS) blocks. The sample included 86,580 men and 83,568 women. Additionally, the report provides data from the four preceding quarters: January-March 2021, October-December 2020, July-September 2020, and April-June 2020.

The 64-page document contains three sections: Introduction (Section 1); Key findings (Section 2); and Sample Size (Section 3).


  1. The ‘labour force’ is the share of the population “which supplies or offers to supply labour for pursuing economic activities” and thus includes both employed and unemployed people. The labour force participation rate (LFPR) measures the share of labour force within a population. Between April and June 2021, the LFPR in urban areas was 37.1 per cent. Men had a greater LFPR (57.3 per cent) as compared to women, whose LFPR was 16.1 per cent.

  2. The worker population ratio (WPR) is termed as the “percentage of workers in the population”. The country-level WPR during the second quarter of 2021 was 32.4 per cent – 50.3 per cent among men and 13.8 per cent among women. The WPR among people aged 15-29 years was a little lower at 28.5 per cent.

  3. Of the 22 states and union territories for which the document provides data, Kerala had the lowest WPR among men – 41 per cent. The lowest figures for women were reported in Bihar at 3.9 per cent.

  4. The PLFS provides data on the percentage of workers across three categories: self-employed, regular wage/salaried employee and casual labour. It found that close to half (49 per cent) of the persons surveyed were regular wage or salaried employees. Of the remaining, 40.7 per cent were self-employed and 10.2 per cent were involved in casual labour, that is, labour which is “casual or seasonal or intermittent” in nature.

  5. The report divides the category of self-employed into persons who are ‘own account workers’ and persons who act as unpaid helpers in household businesses. The survey finds that, during April-June 2021, the percentage of men who were self-employed is higher than that of women – 41.7 per cent and 37 per cent respectively. However, the percentage of women engaged in unpaid labour within household enterprises remained consistently higher throughout the current and the four preceding quarters.

  6. From April to June 2021, 9.8 per cent of women worked as unpaid helpers in household enterprises whereas men doing the same numbered 3.7 per cent. Conversely, a larger share of men were ‘own account workers’ (31.1 per cent) compared to women (22.7 per cent).

  7. The report also outlines the distribution of workers across the agricultural, secondary (mining and quarrying among others) and tertiary sectors. According to the survey, more than half (62.6 per cent) of the workers in urban areas were employed in the tertiary sector during the second quarter of 2021. Roughly one-third were employed in the secondary sector (31.7 per cent) and a mere 5.8 per cent worked in the agriculture sector.

  8. Data from the preceding quarters as well as from the current indicated a higher percentage of women working in the agriculture sector as opposed to men – 7.8 per cent and 5.3 per cent respectively during April-June 2021. The participation of women in the tertiary sector decreased by roughly four per cent compared to April-June 2020.

  9. As per the current weekly approach, a person is considered unemployed if they have not worked even for an hour during the week under consideration but have looked for work or were available for employment. The unemployment rate (UR) is the “percentage of unemployed persons in the labour force.” The overall UR in urban areas increased more than three percentage points compared to the previous quarter – from 9.4 per cent to 12.7 per cent.

  10. Of 22 states and union territories, the UR among women was highest in Kerala (28.4 per cent) and lowest in Delhi (6.7 per cent).

    Focus and Factoids by Naomi Fargose.


National Statistical Office, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, New Delhi


National Statistical Office, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, New Delhi


14 Mar, 2022