MAHILA KISAN ADHIKAAR MANCH

Forum For Women Farmers' Rights

Forum For Women Farmers' Rights

​ 
The Feminization of Agriculture or the Feminization of Agrarian Distress?
Tracking Women in Agriculture in India
 

Itishree Pattnaik[1], Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt[2], Stewart Lockie[3], Bill Pritchard[4]





ABSTRACT

 

The rising share of farm work in India undertaken by women – a phenomenon often referred to as the feminization of agriculture – raises major questions about the changing character of rural India, particularly with regards to women’s social and economic roles. Based on an analysis offoursets of occupational data drawn from the Indian Census(1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011), this paper demonstrates that, as a process driven largely by the outmigration of men from rural areas, the feminisation of agriculturehas no necessary relationship with wider indicators of women’s social or economic empowerment. Instead, the feminization of agriculture appears to be adding to the already heavy work burdens of most rural women and thereby further undermining their well-being. Strong associations between the share of agricultural labour provided by women and several indicators of poverty suggest that the feminization of agriculture may just as adequately be described as the feminization of agrarian distress.

 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

India’s agricultural sector evinces numerous dimensions of crisis including declining plot sizes, food price inflation, increasing costs of production relative to farm incomes, farmer suicides, and so on (Mishra 2007; Dev 2012; Nair and Eapen 2015; Pritchard et al, 2014). Deepening agrarian crisis has stimulated rural men to seek livelihoods outside of agriculture, especially involving migration to other areas(Tumbe 2014; Agrawal and Chandrasekhar 2015). As this occurs, women’s roles in agriculture have changed, meaning that the very idea of who comprises a ‘farmer’,and what constitutes ‘farming livelihoods’ is being reframed. Hence, changes to the gendered composition of agricultural work and decision-making are central to the dynamic of rural restructuring in contemporary India.

 

An increased participation of Indian women in agriculture raises questions about how the effects of this on the power they have at home and in the community, and how agricultural work activities are juggled with traditional household duties (Shah and Pattnaik 2015). These questions are best navigated using insights from feminization research and theory. Processes of feminization embody a number of potentially contradictory social and economic dynamics. Feminization may refer to changing property relations including increases in ownership among women, to women’s ability to control their own labour and assume authority to make decisions, and/or to the visibility of women’s activities, needs and aspirations in policy and public discourse(see Agarwal 2012; Deere 2005; Lastarria 2006). Note,however, that increased participation in paid workforces is not necessarily evidence of female empowerment. Growing numbers of women in particular occupations – either in absolute or relative terms – can be associated with tenuous and underpaid employment that is ultimately disempowering (Kelkar and Wang 2007). Moreover, the causes and consequences of feminization can be extremely diverse. Increased participation by women in the labour force may reflect increased activity among women, or decreased in participation among men (Deere 2005). Increasing female participation in absolute terms may reflect the importance of an activity to women or it may reflect a change forced upon them (Lahiri-Dutt 2014). Finally, it needs noting that as women move from occupations that have been poorly-or un-remunerated, such as unpaid family labour,their visibility in the public sphere increases, but this might not be reflective of changing positions in the private spheres of household and family. With these complexities in mind, and in the context of both anecdotal and survey evidence that women in India are assuming greater responsibility for agricultural labour, this paper thus asks what can be discerned from official data about the participation of women in agriculture, and what this implies for considerations about feminization in rural India?

 

This paper approaches these questions by analysing four sets of occupational structure data drawn from the last four IndianPopulation Censuses(1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011). This period corresponds with the liberalization of India’s economy, which has produced faster rates of economic growth but with highly uneven distributional consequences, including those relating to gender.

 

The paper is structured as follows. The first section frames our contribution in light of existing research on the role of women in rural India. Utilizing census data, the second section explores trendsin relation to women’s participation in agriculture and access to land-holdings. The third section addresses the factors that influence women’s participation in agriculture, thus providing more insight into the causes of feminization. The last section uses these insights to theorize how the feminization of agriculturein India interacts with other indicators of feminization, thereby building a picture of its consequences for how we are to understand the changing lives of women in rural India.

 

Women in agriculture: Evidence from past studies

 

The concept of the ‘feminization of agriculture’ can be interpreted in two ways. In a stricter sense, the concept refers to an increase in farm work being undertaken by women – hence, agriculture being feminized. As noted by Lahiri-Dutt (2014), this encompasses women’s increased responsibilities in smallholder production as well as their growing participation as wage workers in non-traditional agro-export production. This approach is adopted in studies such as Schutter (2013), however is noted for its limitations by Ramakrishnan and Nagar (2011).In a broader (second) sense, however, the term ‘feminization of agriculture’ fixes our gaze on the extent to which women define, control and enact the social processes of agriculture – hence, feminization being played out in agriculture. Addressing this latter interpretation takes into consideration labour (Tamanget.al., 2014; Zuo 2004; Duvvury, 1989 and Chowdhry, 1993), ownership of farmland and other resources (Agarwal 2012), power to make decisions (Lastarria 2006), and recognition of women’s various contributions in the public sphere, particularly with respect totasks that were previously primarily male domains (Deere 2005).

 

Starting with the stricter interpretation discussed above, declining farm incomesand stagnation of employmenthave drawn attention to the gendered consequences of processes within the farm sector. At a national level, agriculture’s contribution to India’s GDP has fallen steadily during the past two decades – from 19.0% in the period 1996-2000, to 17.8% in 2011-15 (World Bank, 2016). Of course, this largely reflects the substantial broadening of India’s economy during this period, rather than the fate of agriculture on its own.

 

A diversity of perspectives become apparent on the representation of women in labour force during this period, generated partly by the fact that official data have indicated volatility without revealing aclear trend of increased and female labour participation. Rawal and Saha (2015), observe that supporters of economic liberalization see women’s increased labour force participation as representing economic empowerment, while critics attribute an increase in women’s participation to agrarian distress. These latter arguments are compiled together in the observations of Garikipati and Pfaffenzeller (2012) that India’s post-liberalization period has favoured men to the particular detriment of female agricultural workers, leading to distress-induced shifts from formal to informal, unpaid and self-employment.

 

World Bank datashow that the value added to GDP from agriculture in Indiadeclinedfrom 18.6 percent between 2006 and 2011 to 17.8 percent between2011 and 2014. Under the Government of India’s 11th plan, the National Commission of Farmers (NCF, 2005) report: II,shows that with increasing rates of male rural out-migration,an increasing number of women are undertaking agricultural tasks such as taking care of the land, working as helpers and so on. Male workers’ participation in agriculture fell from 1.5 per cent during 1983–1994 to 0.5 per cent 1994–2005. Female workers’ participation in agriculture, meanwhile, increased from 1.2 to 1.4 per cent over the same period (Srivastava, 2011).

According to the NSSO Employment and Unemployment Surveysout of the total farmers, the share of men and women was 62 and 38 percent respectively during 1999-00. However the share of men has declined to 58 percent and share of women farmers has increased to 42 percentby 2004-05(Srivastava and Srivastava, 2009). Furthermore, these same NSSO dataindicate that employment in agriculture (inclusive of farming and paid agricultural labour) as a proportion to total rural employment was higher for women than for men in all states except West Bengal. Nationwide, in 2004-05 nearly 84 percent of women workers were engaged in agriculture, compared to 67 percent of men (Srivastava and Srivastava, 2009). During 2011-12 the share of men and women employment in agriculture was 59 and 75 percent respectively (NSSO EUS 2014). Hence, within the rural labour force, women are more likely than men to be work in agriculture, and over time, the proportion of agricultural work being undertaken by women has increased. Srivastava and Srivastava (2009) coin the phrase ‘creeping feminization’ to describe this phenomenon.

 

According to Srivastava (2011), Kanchi (2010) and Kelkar and Wang (2007), these changes must be contextualized within unprofitable crop production and distress migration.Micro-studies document the out-migration of males from agriculture to other sectorsin terms of specific regional and seasonal factors (Hardikar, 2004; Garikipati, 2006). The distress male migration is defined in terms of duration of migration in a recent study by Agrawal and Chandrasekhar(2015). There is an increase in trend of short duration migration and the wage earned by the short term migrants is lower than long duration migrants. The distress-based drivers of male migration are particularly pertinent to the lives of left-behind women. Hardikar’s (2004) study in two villages of Madhya Pradesh found that the migration of men - most of them from marginal and small land-holding groups- put further pressure on women and forced some women cultivators to abandon their farms.The study by Bhandari and Reddy (2015)analysing the relationship of migration and agriculture, assessing the overall impact of remittances on agricultural production and work load on womenin the hill state of Uttarakhand, where out-migration is prominent, analysedfound that there was little or no capital formation in agriculture in the farms held by migrant households. Compared to the non-migrant households, the work burden of women from migrant households was higher and included marketing, the payment of utility bills, meeting the family requirement, dropping children to schools and so on in addition to their routine responsibilities.

 
Methodology

 

In order to investigate the trend of female labour force involvement in agriculture and its implication on women’s social and economic role,the data from the past four Population Censuses has been considered.The Census of India provides data on gender-wise participation of labour for various industries, for both rural and urban areas. A key distinction in the Census is the difference between ‘cultivator’,whichis defined as those providing ‘effective supervision or direction in cultivation’, which effectively amounts to farming one’s own land (either owned outright or via share-cropping of leasing arrangements), and ‘agricultural labourer’, which is defined in terms of wage or in-kind payment for labouring activities.The total number of cultivators and agricultural labourersarecombined to obtain the total population engaged in farming.

 

It is important to acknowledge that census data are limited in several important ways including their ability to fully capture the contributions of women to agriculture (Bhagat 2008; Sikri 2005). Until recently, census enumerators were overwhelmingly men and it is well-known that they failed to see (and officially record) innumerable tasks performed by women in and around fields (Rustagi 2004). Another limitation of census data is its inability to capture seasonal participation in agriculture, thereby under-estimating the effect of seasonal male out-migration. Census classifications of cultivators and labourers do not describe the gendered differentiation of farm activities or the time spent, by gender, on specific activities. Each of these featurestendsobscure or trivialize the roles played by women in agriculture. It follows that while the strength of the census data is their spatially comprehensive and longitudinal natures, women’s labour may still be under-estimated[5].

 

 

Feminization of agricultural labour?

 

Census data show that in the two decades immediately preceding and following economic liberalization in 1991, the female workforce grew at a rate double that of population increase. The male workforce also grew over this period, resulting in only a modest increase in the proportion of the total workforce comprised of women (see Table 1). Over the same period, however, women’s participation rate in the workforce increased from approximately 20 to approximately 26 percent while men’s participation rate remained relatively steady around 52–53 percent.[6]Notably, women belonging to Scheduled Tribes participated in the workforce at a substantially higher rate (43.5 percent in 2011) compared to women belonging to Scheduled Castes (28.3 percent) or General Castes (22.7 percent).

 

Table 1.Workforce Participation Rateby gender

 

Workforce Participation Rate (%)

% Total Workers

Female

  

Male

Female

Total

1981

52.4

19.8

35.6

25.9

1991

51.5

22.3

37.1

28.6

2001

51.8

25.6

39.2

31.6

2011

53.3

25.7

39.8

31.2

Source: Census, various Issues

 

Table 2 providesinsight into the number of workers in particularly precarious employment. Workers are classified either as ‘main workers’ (engaged in economically productive activity for at least 183 days throughout the preceding year) or as ‘marginal workers’ (engaged in economically productive activity for less than 183 days). These classifications do not account for issues such as job security, workplace health and safety or remuneration.  For both genders, there was a substantial shift towards work classified as marginal between 1991 and 2001 although this shift slowed among men and reversed slightly among women from 2001 onwards as workforce growth overall slowed down. In other words, since the introduction of liberalization policies in 1991 the majority of new jobs have been marginal with women disproportionately represented among those in marginal work.

Table 2. Main workers as percentage workforce by gender

Census

Male workers(% to total male workers)

Female workers(% to total female workers)

Total workforce(% to total workers)

1981

98.0

70.8

90.2

1991

97.6

73.9

91.0

2001

87.3

57.3

77.8

2011

82.3

59.6

75.2

Source: Census of India, various issues

 

Women are also disproportionately represented among those in agricultural work despite declines for both genders in the proportion of workers engaged in agriculture. Table 3 shows that while half of all male workers are now employed outside the agricultural sector the same is true of only 35 percent of female workers. Again, the impact of economic liberalization is evident with policies encouraging the expansion of non-agricultural industries reflected in a sharp rise between 1991 and 2001 in non-agricultural employment. The influence of caste is also evident with some 83.7 percent of women workers belonging to Scheduled Tribes working in agriculture in 2011 compared with 69.1 percent of women belonging to Scheduled Castes and 59.9 percent of women belonging to General Castes.

 

Table 3.Work Participation in Agricultural and Non-Agricultural Sectors by gender

Census year

Agriculture

Non-Agriculture

Male (%)

Female (%)

Total agriculture (%)

Male (%)

Female (%)

Total non-agriculture (%)

1981

66.3

82.6

70.3

33.7

17.8

29.7

1991

60.9

82.4

67.2

39.1

17.6

32.8

2001

51.9

71.8

58.4

48.1

28.2

41.6

2011

49.8

65.1

54.5

50.1

34.9

45.5

Source: Census India, various issues

 

Trends away from agricultural employment beg the question as to how these intersect with trends towards more marginal work. Figure 1 demonstrates that while the proportion of men working in agriculture has declined, the proportion of men classified as main workers in agriculture has declined faster than the proportion of men classified as marginal workers. The decline in men employed as main workers in agriculture fell particularly abruptly in the decade following the 1991 economic reforms and the majority of male agricultural workers remain in marginal employment. The reverse is true of men in non-agricultural work. The incentive for male outmigration from rural areas is very clear here as marginal employment among men is an increasingly agricultural phenomenon.

 

Figure 2 shows that, for women, marginal work is similarly more prevalent in agricultural occupations. Yet, as Figure 2 also shows, women remain concentrated in agricultural work.

 

Figure 1.Male Participation in Agriculture and Non-agricultural Activities

Note: Total main-male workers split into male in agriculture and non-agriculture.

Total marginal-male workers split into male in agriculture and non-agriculture.

Source of data: Census of India

Figure 2.  Female Participation in Agriculture and Non-agricultural Activities

Note: Total main-women workers split into women in agriculture and non-agriculture.

Total marginal-women workers split into women in agriculture and non-agriculture.

Source of data: Census of India

 
Feminization of authority?

The Census of India records workforce participation under four main categories: cultivators, agricultural labourers, household industry, and other workers. Examination of these occupational categories provides some insight into changes in the autonomy and authority of women engaged in agriculture. As noted above, cultivators are differentiated from agricultural labourers on the basis of their providing ‘effective supervision or direction in cultivation’.

 

Table 4 shows that the movement of workers out of agriculture, both male and female, is dominated by movement from the role of cultivator to the role of other, non-agricultural, worker. In fact, in the decade to 2011 there was an increase in the proportion of male and female workers engaged in agricultural labour despite the marked decline in cultivator numbers. Tables 5 and 6 show, further, that while the proportion of men and women occupied as cultivators on a main worker basis fell over this period the proportion occupied as cultivators on a marginal worker basis fell substantially more. While the majority of cultivators were effectively part-time in 1991, by 2011 this situation had reversed and the majority of cultivators were engaged at least 183 days per year in relevant economic activity. This was particularly evident among women with those classified as ‘marginal cultivators’ declining from approximately 50 to 22 percent between 1991 and 2011.

Agricultural labour, by contrast, became a markedly more marginal occupation over this time period. For men and women alike, around half of all marginal workers are employed as agricultural labourers.

 

 

Table 4: Workforce participation by occupation and gender, all workers

Cultivators

Agricultural labourers

Household industry

Other workers

 

Men

Women

Men

Women

Men

Women

Men

Women

1991

40.0

39.0

21.0

43.4

2.1

3.3

37.0

14.3

2001

31.1

32.9

20.8

38.9

3.2

6.5

44.9

21.7

2011

24.9

24.0

24.9

41.1

2.9

5.7

47.2

29.2

Source: Compiled from Census of India, calculated by authors

 

 

Table 5: Workforce participation by occupation and gender, main workers

Cultivators

Agricultural labourers

Household industry

Other workers

 

Men

Women

Men

Women

Men

Women

Men

Women

1991

39.9

34.6

20.8

44.2

2.1

3.5

37.2

17.7

2001

32.6

34.8

17.1

30.7

3.1

6.4

47.2

28.0

2011

26.7

25.6

20.2

34.6

2.8

5.4

50.3

34.5

Source: Compiled from Census of India, calculated by authors

 

Table 6: Workforce participation by occupation and gender, marginal workers

Cultivators

Agricultural labourers

Household industry

Other workers

 

Men

Women

Men

Women

Men

Women

Men

Women

1991

42.7

50.3

31.9

41.3

2.8

2.6

22.6

5.7

2001

20.5

30.4

46.5

49.8

3.5

6.5

29.4

13.3

2011

16.5

21.7

46.8

50.6

3.8

6.2

32.9

21.4

Source: Compiled from Census of India, calculated by authors

 

With respect to women’s autonomy and authority, it is important to note that more women continue to derive their livelihood from agricultural labour than from cultivating, and that the role of agricultural labourer has become more marginal. At the same time, there has been a dramatic decline in the proportion of women engaging in cultivation on a marginal basis which, at face value, suggests a professionalization of the cultivator role among those women still engaged in it. The relative strength of trends towards less cultivators and more marginal farm labourers suggests that labour markets are being influenced in important ways by the outmigration of farm household members and reduced capacity among farm households to absorb seasonal increases in labour demand.

 
Property relations?

 

Though the significance of roles played by women in agriculture as workers is well-established, but their rights to agricultural property remain minimal. Weak property rights lead to sub-optimal decisions and missed opportunities to increase productivity (Ashby et.al., 2009). As land ownership data are not available at the official sources, operational holding[7] is used as a proxy for this. Table 7 presents data for land operated by women as well as total operational holdings. According to the latest census of 2010–11, out of the total operational land, 13.5 per cent was owned by women and only 11 per cent of land was operated by them. This shows that out of the total persons operating land, around 87.5 per cent were men. Clearly, a substantial gap exists between land operation among men and women. Women’s operational holdings also vary across states, being higher in southern states like Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Such persisting gender inequalities in access to agricultural assets, inputs, information, and services have hampered women’s potential economic contributions in agriculture (World Bank 2008, FAO 2011).

 

Table 7: Operational holdings by women and women cultivators

% owned by women

% operated by women

Andhra Pradesh

25.4

22.1

Goa

23.3

18.0

Kerala

19.8

15.0

Delhi

19.5

15.5

Tamil Nadu

19.2

16.6

Karnataka

19.0

15.7

Maharashtra

15.0

13.1

Bihar

13.7

12.9

Chattisgarh

12.6

9.9

Jharkhand

10.8

9.0

Haryana

10.5

8.8

Gujarat

10.3

9.1

Madhya Pradesh

9.3

7.2

Uttar Pradesh

9.1

7.6

Rajasthan

9.0

7.7

Jammu & Kashmir

8.1

6.5

Himachal Pradesh

7.1

4.7

West Bengal

3.5

2.1

Orissa

3.3

3.1

Punjab

0.9

0.7

Meghalaya

34.6

34.0

A & N Islands

25.8

22.8

Pondicherry

22.3

14.1

Daman & Diu

19.9

20.8

Chandigarh

18.1

11.5

D & N Haveli

12.1

11.6

Uttaranchal

11.3

10.5

Mizoram

10.9

9.7

Arunachal Pradesh

10.7

8.2

Tripura

10.3

8.8

Nagaland

10.1

8.7

Sikkim

4.3

4.1

Manipur

3.6

2.8

Assam

2.1

2.6

All India

13.5

10.9

Source: Agricultural Census, various years

Women’s land ownership and control is one a major factor for enhancing the livelihood of rural communities (Hanstad and Nielsen 2004; Agarwal, 1994; 2003; Saxena 2011; Rao 2011). Yet, in India, only 13.5 percent of land holdings are in the names of women even though some 77 percent of women rely on agriculture as their primary source of income (see UNDP, 2015). The lack of titled land prevents women from accessing a number of benefits they should be able to enjoy such as access to institutional credit and federal agricultural benefits. Without titles to land, it is likely that even those women classified as cultivators face considerable constraints on their autonomy and authority.

 

Factors Influencing the Participation of Women in agriculture

 

State-by-state analysis of women’s participation in agriculture and other occupations is important in its own right. However, our analysis of state-by-state differences in this paper is undertaken principally to discern what can be learned from these differences about the causes and consequences of various employment patterns.

 

Not surprisingly, Table 8 shows substantial variation in dependence on agricultural employment across states. Women’s participation in agriculture similarly varies across regions and states. The participation of men in agriculture was higher than that of women across all states except Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland. Nonetheless, it is evident that, in those states having a higher share of workers in agriculture (i.e. above the country average), the differences in participation between men and women workers were lowest. The exceptions to this trend were Utter Pradesh and Bihar, which had a high share of agricultural workers, but where only 25 and 28 percent respectively of total agricultural workers were women despite 65 and 75 percent of female workers being engaged in agriculture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 8: Agricultural Workers as Share of Total Workers, 2011

States

Agricultural workers as share of all workers (%)

Men as share of agricultural workers (%)

Women as share of agricultural workers (%)

Chhattisgarh

74.7

52.4

47.6

Bihar

73.6

71.7

28.3

MP

69.8

58.5

41.5

Jharkhand

63.0

56.2

43.8

HP

62.9

45.1

54.9

Rajasthan

62.1

52.0

48.0

Odisha

61.8

63.2

36.8

Nagaland

61.7

48.5

51.5

AP

59.5

53.2

46.8

UP

59.3

75.2

24.8

Meghalaya

58.5

55.4

44.6

Arunchalpradesh

57.7

50.5

49.5

Mizoram

55.8

56.0

44.0

Maharashtra

52.7

55.1

44.9

Uttarakhand

51.2

51.5

48.5

Gujarat

49.6

64.2

35.8

Assam

49.3

71.6

28.4

Karnataka

49.3

58.5

41.5

Manipur

49.1

55.4

44.6

Sikkim

46.5

53.1

46.9

Haryana

45.0

70.6

29.4

Tripura

44.2

68.2

31.8

West Bengal

44.0

78.1

21.9

Tamil Nadu

42.1

54.7

45.3

J&K

41.5

65.8

34.2

Punjab

35.6

85.0

15.0

Dadra &NHaveli

29.2

51.7

48.3

Kerala

17.2

70.5

29.5

Andaman & Nicobar

14.0

76.9

23.1

Goa

10.1

57.9

42.1

India

54.6

62.9

37.1

Compiled from Census of India, calculated by authors

 

Similar variation is evident in women’s participation in the workforce overall. According to the 2011 census, the share of women in the total workforce ranged from a low of 10 percent in Delhi to 45 percent in Himachal Pradesh. States such as Odisha, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan (among the major states) have a higher number of women in the workforce (share of women in total workforce) which is above the all-India average. There exists a positive and significant relationship (rank correlation) between women in the workforce and literacy rates (Venkatanarayan and Naik, 2013).

 

While the proportion of both men and womeninthe workforce engaged in agriculture has declined, the share of women engaged in agriculture remained high (85 percent and 81 percent respectively) in Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh).The agricultural sector in states such as Chattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal and Odisha was, further, dominated by female cultivators and, indeed, in most states the share of women in agriculture was higher than that of men (the exceptions being Assam, Punjab and West Bengal).In Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, even though the total female participation was higher than in other states, the male participation was also higher. Among the major states, except for Goa, Kerala, Punjab and West Bengal, the share of women in non-agriculture activities was less than 50 percent of total female workers. However, the growth rate of female participation in agriculture has slowed in the most recent decade. States like Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Mizoram, Punjab, Sikkim and Utter Pradesh (most of these states have higher State Domestic Product- SDP) showed a negative growth rate. Except for Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, all other states that witnessed a decline in the number of women in agriculture are those with high per capita income.

 

AS Table 9 shows, theproportion of total female cultivators has declined across India although the decline is marginal inKarnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Pondicherry, Manipur, Delhi, Chandigarh and Andhra Pradesh. This shows that among the south Indian states there was marginal decline in women as cultivators. With the exception ofPunjab, states witnessingmarginal declines in the share of women cultivators have asmall share of women working in agriculture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 9: Women as cultivators and agricultural labourers by state

 

States

Total female cultivators as share of total female workers

Total female agricultural labours as share of total female workers

2001

2011

2001

2011

Andhra Pradesh

20.1

14.0

55.8

58.0

Bihar

23.2

15.3

62.6

60.8

Goa

16.7

7.9

13.4

7.6

Gujarat

28.0

17.8

39.1

47.1

Haryana

43.7

32.8

21.1

23.1

Jammu & Kashmir

54.7

42.6

5.2

11.8

Jharkhand

43.0

32.6

39.6

44.8

Karnataka

24.7

19.0

43.5

40.3

Kerala

4.9

3.9

21.5

14.7

Madhya Pradesh

43.3

28.5

40.4

51.5

Maharashtra

35.8

29.6

41.1

39.9

Orissa

20.1

12.9

53.9

57.8

Punjab

13.9

9.9

17.8

19.1

Rajasthan

67.0

52.6

16.2

24.2

Tamil Nadu

19.0

13.2

44.8

41.6

West Bengal

14.1

7.7

32.2

34.0

Assam

41.1

28.1

16.2

20.9

Andaman & N islands

24.1

12.3

4.2

3.3

Chhattisgarh

44.5

31.3

44.1

54.4

Dadra Nagar Haveli

55.9

26.1

24.3

32.6

Daman & Diu

16.6

6.0

8.0

3.0

Delhi

1.8

0.7

0.8

1.0

Himachal Pradesh

85.8

76.2

3.0

4.8

Manipur

39.6

37.9

15.2

13.6

Meghalaya

52.8

45.1

20.1

19.1

Mizoram

61.6

51.1

6.9

9.9

Nagaland

77.5

65.2

4.2

7.3

Pondicherry

1.5

1.8

35.9

22.9

Sikkim

62.8

47.5

8.5

11.5

Tripura

28.1

15.8

34.6

32.9

Uttar Pradesh

36.1

22.2

39.7

38.4

Uttaranchal

77.8

64.0

6.1

8.8

India

32.9

24.0

38.9

41.1

 

Source: Compiled from Census of India, calculated by authors

 

The share of female agricultural labourers overtook the share of female cultivators in almost all the states by 2011, except in Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana and Rajasthan, where the share of cultivators is declining, but is still higher than the share of agricultural labourers. The proportion of cultivators was higher in most of the North-Eastern states compared to others. As already mentioned, at the all India level about 41 per cent of women have been working as agricultural workers in the last decade, which is a result of the drastic decline in the share of female cultivators. The increase in share of female agricultural workers was evident in all most all parts of the country. However, there was a decline in the share of female agricultural labourers in states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Goa and Bihar. Except for Bihar, all other states that witnessed a decline in female agricultural labourers are high per capita income states.

 

In order to examine factors influencing female participation in agriculture across the states, the association between women workers in agriculture and a range of variableswas investigated using a panel dataset.A panel datasetwas created by considering state-wise variables such as poverty ratio, per capita income and agricultural income, per capita land, women’s land holding, area under food-grain and so on for the census periods 2001 and 2011. Table 10 shows the OLS function with share of women workers in agriculture being the dependent variable (the data are presented in appendix 1). The result suggests that per capita land shows a negative and significant association with the women participation in agriculture. This implies with the increase in the land size the women work participation in agriculture declines. Poverty ratio showed a positive and significant association, implying the increase in women participation in agriculture with increase in poverty. This clearly establishes the fact that women participation in agriculture as distress driven. However, the association of poverty ratio and women participation in agriculture is not liner. There is no proportional relationship between the variables, up to a limit the relationship might hold true. We have considered variables like per capita income from agriculture and non-agriculture in the model. Per capita non-agricultural income did not show significant impact on women participation in agriculture. Nevertheless per capita agricultural income shows positive impact, implying with the increase in per capita agricultural income there is increase in women participation in agriculture. However the growth rate of agricultural income shows negative association. This implies that with the increase in growth rate of agriculture there is decline in women participation in agriculture.Higher agricultural percapita income does not necessarily implies economically affluence region/state but the increase in growth rate of agriculture (annual growth rate) may leads to more commercialisation of agriculture and hence withdrawal of women workforce from agriculture.

 
Table 10: Regression result

VARIABLES

Share of Women in Agriculture

Share of women land holding 

0.064

(0.151)

Poverty ratio

0.253*

(0.158)

Poverty (square)

-0.003**

(0.002)

Percapita land (Gross Cropped Area /total population)

-3.459*

(2.088)

Percapita agricultural GSDP (in log term)

3.086*

(1.592)

Growth rate of agricultural GSDP (average annual growth rate)

-0.021**

(0.009)

Growth rate of non-agricultural GSDP (average annual growth rate)

0.012

(0.019)

Area under food-grain (share to the total Gross Cropped Area)

0.020

(0.043)

Constant

9.247

(14.517)

Observations

384

Number of state dummy

32

R2

0.177

State Fixed Effect

Yes

Year Fixed Effect

Yes

Note: Ordinary least square method

Robust standard errors in parentheses, Standard error is a statistical term that measures the accuracy with which a sample represents a population. In statistics, a sample mean deviates from the actual mean of a population; this deviation is the standard error.

*** p<0.01, ** p<0.05, * p<0.1

 

The above analysis shows that female participation in agriculture rises when the agriculture sector is in disadvantage stage. Though the concept is not new, it does open up a new set of issues, which then need a different understanding. For instance, we need to investigate more deeplythe conditions under which feminization of agriculture is taking place, including the different meanings and wider connotationsof the processes implied in the term.

 

Conclusion: Feminization of Agriculture?

 

The role of women in the agricultural workforce could be defined as one where women as main workers have remained at a constant level, though the proportion of men as main workers has declined. With increased marginalization of the workforce, more men have joined marginal work than women. Participation of both men and women in agriculture has declined, but the rate of decline has been faster among the men compared to women. The shift of the male workers from agriculture to non-agricultural work was obvious, whereas there was no significant and major shift of women from one sector to another. Out of the total women workers, participation was highest in agriculture, with around 65 per cent engaging either as cultivators or as agricultural labourers, compared to 82 per cent in 1991. This overall decline stems from the drop inwomen cultivators as the number of women as agricultural labourers has remained stagnant.

 

Women’s participation as agricultural labour was one of the major components of the latest Census. These labourers include casual, daily wage labourers, attached workers whose wages are fixed by contract, and bonded labourers who have entered into a contract with the landowners to pay off the loans taken from them by working for them.

 

The statistical analysis clearly establishes the fact that women’s participation has declined with the increase in income percapita. This impliesthatwhereincomes have increased women have withdrawn from the farm sector. This also implies that the current higher participation of women in agriculture reflects a relative state of disadvantage as states with lower per capita income have witnessed higher participation of women in agriculture. Logically, an increase in economic and social standards leads to a decline in women’s participation in agriculture.  

 

Further, the type of feminization of agriculture that the data present implies a concentration of women either in agricultural labour or ‘otherwork’, and could be related to what the NCW (2008) described as ‘feminization of poverty’. Women’sinvolvement as cultivators might not be financially empowering, as the sector is already experiencing severe decline and is no longer considered a profitable occupation.This type of feminization of agriculture implies that women are now taking care of economic activities that havebeenleftby men.Such involvement occurs under duress, and could be termed as ‘feminization out of compulsion’ or ‘feminization of agrarian distress’. This type of feminization in India is distress-driven, as no effective government action exists to help women in agriculture.

 

The data presented here clearly illustrate a feminization of agricultural labour and managerial responsibilities. However, involvement in agriculture should not be confused with women’s empowerment, because oftenwomen have neither the decision-making powers over assets,nordo they have alternatives. The ‘feminization of agriculture’, as it has been occurring in India, is addingtothe already heavy work burdens of most rural women and thereby further deteriorating their well-being.

The analysis presented here supports arguments that basic social and economic protection is missing for a large portion oftheruralpopulation, because of whichwomenas the cheapest and weakest labour in households and communities are falling back on agriculture whereas men are moving out of farms altogether. To transform the situation, it is essential to put the focus on women in the overall development plans and policies of agriculture. If the face of India’s agricultural labour in future is, indeed, to be feminine, policy debates on agricultural growth will need to better reflect women’s roles, practices, needs and interests. Feminization of Indian agriculture has been takingshapein the context of a complex interplay of shrinking land holdings; degraded soils and water resources; declining accessibility to traditional seeds and other inputs; distorted market incentives for crop choice and technology; growing labour shortages; and mechanization. It has also been occurring within a deepening crisis of gender relations. Efforts to enhance women’s agency without addressing thesebroaderrural crises will achieve only limited outcomes.

 
Acknowledgments

 

The present work is a part of the project ‘Farmers of Future: Challenges of Feminized Agriculture in India’ funded jointly by Australian Research Council (DP 140101682) and Indian Council for Social Science research (ICSSR). The authors would like to express their gratitude to both funding agencies. The paper was presented at the Symposium on ‘The Great Transformation in South Asia: Feminisation of Agriculture and its Implications for Food Security’, held at the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University,in August. 2015. Authors would also like to thank the experts and the audiences, present in the Symposium, for their valuable comments and suggestions.The authors would like to thank Dr. Chandrasekhara Bahinipati for his inputs in the paper. Last but not the least, our grateful thanks go to Professor Amita Shah for her constant encouragement and insightful comments in guiding the analysis.

 

References

 

Agarwal, Bina (1994), A Field of One’s Own: Gender and Land Rights in South Asia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

Agarwal, Bina (2003), ‘Gender and Land Rights Revisited: Exploring New Prospects via the State, Family and Market’, Journal of Agrarian Change, 3 (1&2): 184-224.

 

Agarwal, Bina (2012), ‘Food Security, Productivity, and Gender Inequality’, Institute of Economic Growth (IEG) working Paper 320.

 

Agrawal, Tusha,  SChandrasekha (2015), ‘Short Term Migrants in India: Characteristics, Wages and Work Transition’, Working Paper-07, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai April, http://www.igidr.ac.in/pdf/publication/WP-2015-07.pdf

Bhagat , R.B. and K.C. Das (2008), ‘Levels, Trends and Structure of Workforce in India: Census Based Study 1981-2001’, International Institute for Population Sciences,  Mumbai. http://iipsindia.org/pdf/b01cBhagat%20sir's%20report.pdf accessed on 28th July, 2014.

 

Bhandari Gunjanand B.V. Chinnappa Reddy (2015),‘Impact of Out-Migration on Agriculture and Women Work Load: An Economic Analysis of Hilly Regions of Uttarakhand India’, Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, 70 (3),pp. 395-404, July-Sept.

ChowdhryPrem (1993), ‘High participation and low evaluation: Women and work in rural Haryana’, Economic and Political Weekly, 28(52), A-135 -47.

 

Deere Carmen (2005), ‘The Feminization of Agriculture? Economic Restructuring in Rural Latin America, Occasional Paper 1, United Nation Research Institute for Social Development, February.

 

Dev. S. Mahendra (2012), ‘Small Farmers in India: Challenges and Opportunities’, WP. No. 2012-014, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, June, http://www.igidr.ac.in/pdf/publication/WP-2012-014.pdf .

Duvvury, Nata (1989), ‘Women in Agriculture: A review of Indian Literature’, Economic and Political Weekly, 24 (43), October, pp. 96-112.

 

Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). 2011. The State of Food and Agriculture 2010–2011. Women in Agriculture: Closing the Gender Gap for Development (Rome, FAO).

 

Garikipati, Supriya and Stephan Pfaffenzeller (2012), ‘The Gendered Burden of Liberalisation: The Impact of India’s Economic Reforms on its Female Agricultural Labour’, Journal of International Development, 24, 841-864.

 

Garikipati, Supriya. 2006. ‘Feminization of Agricultural Labour and Women's Domestic Status: Evidence from Labour Households in India’, No. 30, Research Paper Series, University of Liverpool Management School, Great Britain.

 

Hanstad Tim and Robin Nielsen (2004), ‘From Sharecroppers to Landowners: Paving the Way for West Bengal’s Bargadars’, Rural Development Institute Reports of Foreign Aid, 121.

 

Hardikar, Jaideep (2004), ‘Migration, agriculture and women’. http://www.indiatogether.org.

 

Kanchi, Aruna. 2010. ‘Women Workers in Agriculture: Expanding Responsibilities and Shrinking Opportunities’, ILO Asia-Pacific Working Paper, Asian Decade of Decent Work 2006 to 2015 June.

 

Kelkar, G. and Wang, Y (2007), ‘The Gender Questions and Decent Work: An analysis of Apparel Industry Worker in China and India’, The Indian Journal of Labour Economics, 50( 3), pp-66-89.

 

Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala. 2014. Experiencing, Coping with Change: Women-Headed Farming Households in the Eastern Gangetic Plains. Canberra: Australian Council for International Agricultural Research.

 

LastarriaSusanaCornhiel (2006), ‘Feminization of Agriculture: Trends and Driving Forces’, Background Paper for The World Development Report 2008. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWDRS/Resources/477365-1327599046334/8394679-1327599874257/LastarriaCornhiel_FeminizationOfAgri.pdf., accessed on 29th July 2014.

 

Mishra 2007; Mishra S (2006), ‘ Suicide Mortality Rates across States of India, 1975-2001: A Statistical Note’, Economic and Political Weekly,  41(16), pp- 1566-1569.

Nair and Eapen (2015) ‘Agrarian Performance and Food Price Inflation in India ‘, Economic and Political weekly, Vol. 50, Issue No. 31, 01 Aug, pp-49-60

National Commission on Farmers, Second Report (2005), Serving Farmers and Saving Farming, Crisis to Confidence, http://agricoop.nic.in/imagedefault/policy/NCF%20Report-02.pdf

 

Papola, T. S. (2012), ‘Employment Growth in the Post-Reform Period’, Keynote Paper on the Theme “Employment in the Post-Reform India”, 54th Annual Conference, The Indian Society of Labour Economics, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.

 

Pritchard, B., Rammohan, A., Sekher, M., Parasuraman, S. and Choithani, C. (2014) Feeding India: Entitlements, Capabilities and Livelihoods. Routledge, London.

 

Ramakrishnan, Rajesh and Shailesh Nagar (2011) ‘Small-holder Women Farmers in India’, A Discussion Paper for Oxfam India, New Delhi, Draft, January.

 

Rangarajan, C, Padma Iyer and Seema Kaul (2011), ‘Where is the Missing Labour Force’, Economic and Political Weekly, September 24-30.

 

Rao, Nitya (2011), ‘Women’s Access to Land: An Asian Perspective’, at the UN Women in Cooperation with FAO, IFAD and WFP Expert Group Meeting Enabling rural women’s economic empowerment: institutions, opportunities and participation. http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/csw56/egm/Rao-EP-3-EGM-RW-30Sep-2011.pdf.

 

Rawal, Vikas and Saha, Partha (2015), “Women’s Employment in India: What do Recent NSS Surveys of Employment and Unemployment Show?”,Statistics on Indian Economy and Society, Jan 28, url: http://archive.indianstatistics.org/misc/women_work.pdf

 

Rustagi, Preet (2004), ‘Significance of Gender-related Development Indicators: An Analysis of Indian States’, Journal of Gender Studies, 11 (3), Sage Publications New Delhi.

 

Saxena N.C. (2011), ‘Women, Land and Agriculture in Rural India’, UN Women South Asia Sub Regional Office, Available from:

http://www.unwomen.org/~/media/field%20office%20eseasia/docs/publications/southasia/reportstudies/06_economic%20empowerment/un_women_land_agriculture_in_rural_india%20pdf.ashx?v=1&d=20141202T120141 accessed on 02.dec.2015.

 

Schutter, Olivier de (2013), ‘The agrarian transition and the ‘Feminization’ of Agriculture’, in Food Sovereignty: A Critical Dialogue, Conference Paper #37, International Conference Yale University September 14-15.

 

Shah Amita and Itishree Pattnaik (2015), ‘Recent Experiences of Agricultural Growth in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh: An Enquiry into the Patterns, Processes and Impacts’, report submitted to Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), New Delhi.

 

Sikiri, D.K. (2005), ‘Challenges of 2001 Census in India and Future Issues’,  http://www.ancdsaap.org/cencon2005/papers/India/India.D.K.Sikiri.pdf) accessed on 28th July, 2014.

 

Srivastava Nisha (2011), ‘Feminisation Of Agriculture: What Do Survey Data Tell Us?’,Journal of Rural Development, 30 (3) pp. 341 – 359.

 

Srivastava, Nisha and Ravi Srivastava, (2009), ‘Women, work, and employment outcomes in rural India’, Paper presented at the FAO-IFAD-ILO Workshop on ‘Gaps, Trends and Current Research in Gender Dimensions of Agricultural and Rural Employment: Differentiated Pathways out of Poverty, Rome, 31 March - 2 April 2009.

 

Tamang Sujata , Krishna P. Paudel and Krishna K. Shrestha (2014), ‘Feminization of Agriculture and its Implications for Food Security in Rural Nepal’,Journal of Forest and Livelihood, 12(1) October.

 

Tumbe, Chinmay (2014), ‘Missing Men, Migration and Labor Markets: Evidence from India’ June http://www.ihdindia.org/sarnet/TumbeMissingMenMigrationandLaborMarketsinIndia.pdf

UNDP, (2015) http://www.governancenow.com/views/think-tanks/how-undp-helping-women-become-land-owners-in-rural-india.

 

Venkatanarayan M. and Naik, Suresh V. 2013.Growth and Structure of Workforce in India: An Analysis of Census 2011 Data, MPRA paper 48003 pp.1-24.

 

World Bank (2008), Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook Washington DC.

 

World Bank (2016) World Development Indicators, Available from:

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NV.AGR.TOTL.ZS.

 

Zuo Jiping (2004), ‘Feminization of Agriculture, Relational Exchange, and Perceived Fairness in China: A Case in Guangxi Province’, Rural Sociology, 69(4), pp. 510–531.

 

 

Appendix 1: Descriptive statistics of the variables

 

VARIABLES

mean

(sd)

Share of Women in Agriculture

39.54

(10.71)

Share of women land holding 

11.39

(6.977)

Poverty ratio

28.47

(14.97)

Poverty (square)

1,034

(979.8)

Percapita land (GCA/total population)

0.234

(0.469)

Percapita agricultural GSDP (in log term)

8.599

(0.621)

Growth rate of agricultural GSDP (average annual growth rate)

3.804

(11.40)

Growth rate of non-agricultural GSDP (average annual growth rate)

8.493

(5.464)

Area under foodgrain (share to the total GCA)

67.84

(18.35)

Observations

384

Number of statedummy

32

Variance Inflation Factor

3.32

 


[1]Corresponding author. Assistant Professor, Gujarat Institute of Development Research (GIDR)

Ahmedabad. Contact – itishreep@gidr.ac.in

[2] Senior Fellow, Resource Environment & Development Program, Crawford School of Public Policy

ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University

[3]Director, Cairns Institute, James Cook University, Australia.

[4]Professor in Human Geography, School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, Australia.

[5]Since 1981, the census definition of ‘work’has remained unchanged, but more efforts have been made to enumerate female workforce in later censuses. In the 1981 census, attempt was made to get a detailed profile of the working characteristics of the population (Census Manual Book, 1981)

[6]Although the Census data do not record a decline in workforce participation rates between 2001 and 2011 as seen in NSSO data (Rangarajan et.al, 2011; Papola, 2012), workforce growth does appear to have stagnated.

[7]Operational holding in the agricultural Census is defined as all land which is used for agricultural production and is operated as one unit by a person alone or with others, without regard to the title, legal form, size or location. The operational holders may be individuals or joint or institutional groups. By far the largest proportion of Indian land holding is individual.
Type your paragraph here.