Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) Quarterly Bulletin: July-September 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 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 July to September 2021 – is the twelfth in the series. The data collection on the field for this report concluded in December 2021. The survey for this quarter covered 171,405 people from 44,272 households across 5,676 urban frame survey (UFS) blocks. The sample included 87,180 men and 84,200 women. Additionally, the report provides data from the four preceding quarters: April-June 2021, January-March 2021, October-December 2020, and July-September 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. The LFPR at the country level for July-September 2021 (as per the current weekly status) was 37 per cent – 57.5 per cent among men and 15.8 per cent among women.

  2. During the same time (July to September 2021) in urban areas, the lowest LFPR figures amongst both men and women were recorded in Bihar – 4.4 per cent for women and 48.8 per cent for men.

  3. The worker population ratio (WPR) is termed as the “percentage of workers in the population”. For the third quarter of 2021 (July-September), the WPR in India was 33.4 per cent. The percentage for men (52.1 per cent) was much higher than that for women (14 per cent).

  4. In urban areas, of the 22 states and union territories for which the document provides data, the highest WPR for females was recorded in Himachal Pradesh (23.2 per cent) followed by Tamil Nadu (20.5 per cent). The highest figures for men were in Gujarat (58.8 per cent) followed by Punjab and West Bengal (56.5 per cent each).

  5. The PLFS outlines the percentage of workers across three categories: self-employed, regular wage/salaried employee and casual labour. During the period of July-September 2021, 48.7 per cent of surveyed workers earned regular wages or salaries and around 39.1 per cent were self-employed. About 12.2 per cent workers engaged in casual labour. Casual labour is defined as labour which is of “casual or seasonal or intermittent nature.”

  6. Of the people surveyed (aged 15 years and above), 46.7 per cent of male workers were salaried employees compared to 56.4 per cent of female workers. The percentage of male workers who were self-employed was higher than self-employed female workers – 40.1 per cent and 35.1 per cent respectively. Around 13.2 per cent of men were engaged in casual labour compared to 8.5 per cent of women.

  7. The survey also outlines the distribution of workers across agricultural, secondary (mining and quarrying among others) and tertiary sectors. During the third quarter of 2021 (July-September), in urban areas, 5.9 per cent of workers (aged 15 years and above) were employed in the agricultural sector in India. Similarly, 33.3 per cent were employed in the secondary sector and 60.9 per cent in the tertiary sector.

  8. A higher percentage of female workers (8.3 per cent) worked in the agriculture sector compared to male workers (5.2 per cent). Further, 35 per cent of men surveyed were engaged in the secondary sector compared to 26.6 per cent women. The tertiary sector also saw a higher percentage of female workers (65.1 per cent) than male workers (59.7 per cent).

  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 UR among workers of all ages in urban areas was 9.8 per cent – 9.3 per cent among men and 11.6 per cent among women.

  10. The unemployment rate was considerably high (22.5 per cent) among people aged 15-29 years.

  11. In the third quarter of 2021, the unemployment rate in urban areas, was highest in Kerala (18.2 per cent) out of the 22 states and union territories for which the report provides data. Uttarakhand followed with a UR of 17.4 per cent. Jammu and Kashmir at 16.7 per cent had the third highest UR. The lowest UR was recorded in Gujarat – 4.9 per cent.

    Focus and Factoids by Devanshi Parekh.


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


22 Mar, 2022