Report of the High Level Committee on the Status of Women in India: Volume II


The Government of India set up the High Level Committee on the Status of Women in India in 2013. Its mandate was to examine the social, economic, health and political status of women in the country since 1989 and evolve policies based on women’s needs. The Committee submitted its report (in four volumes) in 2015.

The report assesses the status of women in India in “all aspects of their lives”, including age, class, caste, religion, ethnicity, region and ability. It recommends measures for women’s ‘holistic empowerment’, evaluates the impact of existing policies and legislative changes, and identifies gaps in their implementation. The Committee says that while there has been progress in women’s education and their participation in local governance, the status of most women is not equal to that of men, especially women from marginalised sections of society.

Volume II of the report (chapters 8-9) examines women’s participation in the Indian economy. Chapter 8 looks at the extent of their participation in the economy, their access to resources, and the challenges they face. Chapter 9 discusses trends in women’s employment across the states and union territories. It looks specifically at the public and private sectors, the formal and informal sectors, urban and rural areas, and industries such as fisheries, manufacturing and construction.


  1. According to 2011-12 data of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), 24.8 per cent of rural women and girls and 14.7 per cent of urban women and girls were employed, and 0.4 per cent and 0.8 per cent of rural and urban women and girls respectively were unemployed.

  2. Around 25.3 per cent of all women constituted the total female labour force.

  3. More than 50 per cent of women were self-employed in 2011-12, and 'unpaid work' was an important part of self-employment.

  4. Most rural women were self-employed and worked in agriculture (on their family’s land), which, the report says, hides “a large proportion of unpaid labour.”

  5. According to the 2001 Census, the suicide rate among women in the general population was 8.5 per cent, while it was 10.1 per cent among female cultivators. However, the report says that since only men are seen as farmers, the suicide rate among women is under-reported in official data.

  6. Across all social groups, the workforce participation rate (WFPR) in 2011-12 was the highest among tribal women and the lowest among Muslim women. Among tribal women, it was 36.6 per cent in rural areas and 19.6 per cent in urban areas, and among Muslim women, it was 15.3 per cent in rural areas and 10.5 per cent in urban areas.

  7. In 2011-12, a regular-wage or salaried male employee in rural areas received around Rs. 322 per day, while a regular-wage or salaried female employee received Rs. 202 per day. The rural female-to-male wage ratio was 0.63.

  8. In the same year, a regular-wage or salaried male employee in urban areas received around Rs. 470 per day, while a regular-wage or salaried female employee received Rs. 366 per day. The urban female-to-male wage ratio was 0.78.

  9. According to data from the NSSO, rural women engaged in domestic activities increased from 44 per cent in 1993-94 to 59 per cent in 2009-10, while the number of urban women doing domestic activities increased from 58 per cent to 72 per cent in the same period. The report concludes that the education of women seems to increase the likelihood of them doing domestic work as it makes them “internalize patriarchal norms and thus reproduce ‘status’ of the household more efficiently."

  10. The NSSO’s 68th Round (2011-12) survey found that Bihar had the highest number of rural women engaged in domestic activities (81.5 per cent), while Sikkim had the lowest (11.9 per cent).

  11. In 2011-12, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of urban women engaged in domestic activities (73.2 percent and 73.6 per cent, respectively), and Meghalaya had the lowest (35.7 per cent).

  12. In the same year, 15.96 per cent of all workers (in the 15-59 age group) with a secondary education and some technical training were rural women, and 19.13 per cent were urban women. The Committee recommends special programmes to improve women’s skills “since women lag far behind men in skills and productivity.”

  13. The Committee also recommends regularising volunteer workers, such as anganvadi teachers and helpers, Accredited Social Health Activists (or ASHA workers), and Mid-Day Meal Scheme cooks, by paying them regular wages. It also suggests setting up a commission headed by a woman to ensure that such workers get fair wages and social security.

  14. The Committee says that the strict monitoring of sectors where women’s employment is growing, such as domestic services and construction, is needed. It also says that India should ratify the Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers (Domestic Workers Convention No. 189) adopted by the International Labour Organization in 2011.

  15. As per the 2014 guidelines of the Securities Exchange Board of India, companies had to appoint at least one woman director on their boards by October 1, 2014, which was later extended to April 1, 2015. The Committee says that, in the future, women should constitute one-third of the boards of these companies.

    Focus and Factoids by Vasundhara Kamath.


The High Level Committee on Status of Women in India

The Committee’s chairperson was Dr. Pam Rajput, and its members were Dr. Simrit Kaur, Dr. Razia A.R. Patel, Dr. Mridul Eapen, Manira Pinto, Kavitha Kuruganti, Bindu Ananth, Rita Sarin and Dr. Ravi Verma.


Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, New Delhi


Jun, 2015