Female labor force participation in China and India

By Luyao Chen, Jiayan Tu and Zheyu Chen


The employment rates for female and male in China and India have been a frequently discussed subject. As we all know, China and India have been marked by their amazing population. They are the 2 most populous countries in the world. However, the culture shared no remarkable similarities between these two neighboring countries.

 From the gender gap between labor force participation, we can see the great gender disparities in the two countries and an intrinsic relationship with female empowerment. As two densely populated developing countries in Asia, China and India share common places concerning economics and culture. Thus, it may be valuable to compare female employment data in both countries to find similarities towards gender issues. The labor force participation rate discussed in this article can be defined as the proportion of the population age 15 and older that is economically active, all people who supply labor for the production of goods and services during a specified period.

While more women in the workplace can boost economic growth and productivity as well as achieve gender equality, according to UN Women, it is of urgent need to face the unequal employment rate between genders and find ways to overcome the challenge. Data comes from the World Bank will be generated to show the changes in female and male labor force participation for China and India in the past decade. The generated plot will be used to discuss the reasons behind the phenomenon and potential impact towards society or the economy.

Key findings

During the last decade, both countries’ employment rate decreased steadily and saw a clear gap between male and female employment. Starting from about 79%, China’s male employment decreased for about 5% and ended up at around 75% while still exceeding female employment rate for approximately 15%. The same situation also applied to India. Although the initial figure was about the same for male in 2009, the gender gap was more apparent and severe with almost 60% difference between two genders throughout.

Reasons Behind the Low Female Employment Rate


In China, the first reason for the gender disparities in labor force is traditional gender conception. People has the conception that women should participate in the family and be a housewife, husbands should go working outside. This started because from the physical aspect, men are much stronger than women. Moreover, the second child policy has been operated in 2013, but the subsidy provided by the government for people to raised their kids decreased dramatically since the 20th century. It can explain the decreasing in women labor force participation rate as more and more works are required while housework increased, so female quit and focused on their family instead of their business.

Secondly, women are lacking representation and status. Women are severely underrepresented in leadership roles in China. In 2015, the female-to-male ratio for enrollment in tertiary education (beyond high school) was 1.15. However, the ratio for positions in parliament was 0.31; for ministerial positions, it was 0.13; and for years with head of state positions within the last 50 years, it was 0.08. No woman has ever been a member of the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party, the leaders of China’s government. Such data can clearly indicate the truth that women social influence is so small that can be easily ignored by the public. In order to deal with that, people should provide more opportunities for the women to participate in the government and to give them more chance to showed themselves to the public. As the result, the impression of female will change over time and can directly affect the women status in both society and families.

The data in the table can reflect the way women lived. They need to participate the most in the family, but has the lowest status. The same role is played in the society. This phenomenon is not odd but very common due to the two reasons mentioned before. What a tragedy!


In India, the first reason resulting in great gender disparities is less opportunity for work. Due to the deep-rooted gender stereotypes, females tend to have less social status compared to males in India society. Instead of going out for work, men tend to be breadwinners and married women are expected to prioritize housework and family. Moreover, males tend to be dominant figures in the family due to gender differences and consequently preference for boy infants. Thus, improper nutrition and lack of education opportunities keep women from having healthy conditions and opportunities in workplaces.

Secondly, the violence towards female is also a huge cause. According to a survey from National Family Health Survey, 30% female in India in the age group 15 to 49 suffered from physical violence since the age of 15 and 6% of them experienced sexual violence. As India is one of the countries with the most severe gender-based violence, the situation stops female from seeking properly paid work outside their living places, especially for Muslim and lower-class women.


To raise the public’s attention and to ameliorate this issue, it is necessary for us to make speeches to the government officials as well as the public.

Admittedly, formulating policies is the most effective and direct method to improve the situation. Although making a political decision is not easy—the officials have to discuss the new policy and make it comprehensive enough to be a rule—the speech we make will emphasis the severity of the issue. Some companies reject the women who have got married but don’t have children as it is legal for women to get salary without working during pregnancy. The laws about it at present have some loopholes. As a result, some women utilize those loopholes to get money without working. It is necessary to remind the government of this issue and improve the laws to protect both women and the companies’ rights.

In addition, pressing videos and articles on the internet can help to appeal the public extensively. While most senior executives who can determine the promotion process in companies are male, they may be biased against women and refuse to hire women. In hope changing their Americanization to females are as capable as males in their work, they may provide more working opportunities to the females. As a result, labor force participation ratio of females may rise.

Moreover, reminding the males of the responsibilities to be fathers is essential. Family members should think about balancing their responsibilities on work and family. Equal distribution of family responsibilities between the wife and husband will help raise the female labor force participation rate.


Chauhan, Neha. “How Gender-Based Violence in India Continues to Rise.” YourStory.com, 17 Sept. 2019, yourstory.com/social story/2019/09/gender-violence-India.

ZHANG, L., BRAUW, A., & ROZELLE, S. (2004, May 10). China’s rural labor market development and its gender implications. Retrieved August 23, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1043951X0400015X

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