Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) Quarterly Bulletin: January-March 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 survey results are released in the form of quarterly bulletins, each covering three months of the survey year.

This quarterly bulletin – covering the period of – January to March 2021 – is the tenth publication in the PLFS series. The data collection on the field for this report concluded in April 2021. The survey for this quarter covered 172,484 people from 44,000 households across 5,601 urban frame survey (UFS) blocks. The sample included 88,216 men and 84,950 women. Additionally, the report also provides data from the four preceding quarters: October-December 2020, July-September 2020, April-June 2020, and January-March 2020.

The 63-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. As per the current weekly status, the LFPR during January-March 2021 was 57.5 per cent for men and 16.9 per cent for women. The overall rate was around 37.5 per cent.

  2. During the same period, West Bengal recorded the highest LFPR among men (61.8 per cent) followed by Tamil Nadu (61.6 per cent). The states with the highest female LFPR were Himachal Pradesh (29.6 per cent), Tamil Nadu (24.2 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (23.1 per cent).

  3. The worker population ratio (WPR) is defined as the “percentage of workers in the population”. Among those aged 15 years and above, the WPR (as per current weekly status) was 43.1 per cent – 67.2 per cent for men and 18.7 per cent for women.

  4. The PLFS provides data on workers across three categories: self-employed, regular wage/salaried employee, and casual labour (labour that is of “casual or seasonal or intermittent nature”). Of the people surveyed, 39.3 per cent were self-employed, 48.1 per cent were regular wage workers/salaried employees and 12.7 per cent engaged in casual labour.

  5. During the first quarter of 2021, a majority of men and women in urban areas were regular wage/salaried employees – 46.4 per cent men and 54 per cent women. A greater percentage of men (40 per cent) were self-employed compared to women (36.7 per cent). Around 13.6 per cent of men and 9.3 per cent women were engaged in casual labour during the same period.

  6. The workers in the self-employed category are divided into two sub-groups: own account worker or employer and unpaid helper in household enterprises. During January-March 2021, around 35.1 per cent of self-employed men were own account workers and 4.1 per cent were unpaid helpers in household enterprises. Among women, only 24.8 per cent were own account workers while as many as 11.2 per cent worked as unpaid helpers.

  7. The survey outlines the distribution of workers across agricultural, secondary (mining and quarrying, among others) and tertiary sectors in urban areas. In the first quarter of 2021, 5.9 per cent of workers (aged 15 years and above) in urban areas were employed in the agriculture sector. Around 32.7 per cent engaged in the secondary and 61.4 per cent engaged in the tertiary sector.

  8. The percentage of women working in agriculture was higher than men – 8.5 per cent compared to 5.2 per cent. The secondary sector also had a higher percentage of men workers (34.2 per cent) than women workers (27.4 per cent). Most of the people surveyed were employed in the tertiary sector – 60.6 per cent men and 64.1 per cent women.

  9. Following the current weekly status approach, a person is considered unemployed if they have not worked even for an hour during the reference week but looked for work or were available for employment. The unemployment rate (UR) is the “percentage of unemployed persons in the labour force.” The UR for the population aged 15 years and above was 9.3 per cent during January-March 2021. It was 8.6 per cent among men and 11.8 per cent among women.

  10. In the 22 states and union territories for which the report provides data, the highest UR among people of all ages was recorded in Jammu and Kashmir (17.6 per cent), followed by Uttarakhand (14.3 per cent) and Kerala (14.2 per cent). The state with the lowest figures was Gujarat, with an UR of 3.8 per cent.

    Focus and Factoids by Dhyanvi Katharani.


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


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


30 Nov, 2021