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Tokyo, Japan July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Women’s labor force participation

The United Nations defines members of the economically active population as individuals who are employed in the civil and military sectors and who are prepared and able to provide labor for the production of an item or provision of a service of economic value within a specific time period. Also, employment means engaging in various economic activities with the expectation of economic return in a certain situation or providing labor for the purpose of earning a certain salary to achieve individual needs and wants. This may be rural or urban or state, semi-state or private. Both men and women are included in this employment population (Stichter, 1988). The extent to which women have expanded their share of the labor market is one of the most noticeable recent changes; their rising engagement in paid work has driven employment trends and the gender participation rates inequalities have been closing. In some developing countries we can see women’s participation increasing in industrial and services fields (Yousefy & Baratali, 2011).  Every area of the world, with the exception of Africa, had labor force growth that was significantly higher for women than for males, particularly in the 1980s and the early 1990s. In the advanced industrialized nations, rising female labor force participation (Jaumotte, 2013). In compared to worldwide averages, Egypt and Arab Middle Eastern nations generally have low rates of female labor force participation. With the lowest regional participation percentage in the world—25.2%—most women in the region are not employed. A significant fraction of women also go through prolonged periods of unemployment, which might occasionally result in leaving the labor force rather than finding work. In Egypt, the unemployment rate for young women is more than five times higher than it is for young males, reaching a peak of 38.1% as opposed to 6.8% (Barsoum, 2019).

Then, women’s labor force participation has risen sharply in many countries over the past few decades. The timing of this increase has varied across countries, with some countries starting earlier (e.g. the Nordics and the United States), and the largest increases over the past two decades in low-income countries (Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland) as well as some northern European countries. (Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany). However, there are large differences in the levels of female participation. Focusing on women of prime age (25 – 54 years), their participation rates range from close to or below 60 percent to values ​​above 80 percent in Turkey, Korea, Mexico, and southern European countries (excluding Portugal). Percent in the Nordic countries and some Eastern European countries. Female labor force participation has been identified as the most important factor explaining current cross-country variation in aggregate participation rates as well as increases in aggregate participation rates (Yousefy & Baratali, 2011). Since the 1960s, and more quickly in the 1980s and 1990s, women’s activity rates have increased across Latin America. Women between the ages of 15 and 64 presently make up 44% of regional activity in the urban sector. The increase in women’s activity rates can be attributed to secular trends linked to decreased childbearing rates, the expansion of the service sector, and increased access to education (Economics & Library, n.d.). 

Therefore consciously or unknowingly, we have to face strong pressures on the female side compared to the male side. It can be from within the family, or from the husband or neighbors as well as the pressure from the society etc. However, there are several reasons why young women turn to employment.

  • Aggravation of financial problems in the family.
  • Inadequate economy for higher education.
  • Lack of family background suitable for higher education. Arguments and conflicts in the family and lack of a free environment.
  • If there is distress from the husband, if it causes trouble to the mind when you are with him, looking for a job as a measure that can be taken to get rid of it.
  • Perhaps the desire to spend time away from her husband, free and away from him.
  • Women often love fashion. But some husbands do not like to spend money on such needs of their wives. When that happens, women are motivated to work. Collect the necessary money for their necessary expenses.
  • If the husband does not earn enough money to cover all the expenses of the family, i.e. the expenses of the house, the expenses of the children, women try to earn the family income as a support to him.
  • Transferring the responsibility of maintaining the family to the wife if the husband has an accident during work and is unable to continue his work due to this.
  • Women with entrepreneurial skills who want to build new business opportunities out of them.
  • If the family corporation collapses without happiness, harmony, unity and family feeling in the family, turning to work as a solution to spend time away from the family.
  • If there is no longer a relationship between the husband and the wife, i.e. the husband and wife are divorced and the family corporation is broken, women resort to work to take care of their children.

Many women are inspired to work because of factors like these. There are just handful actual causes in this situation. Each lady may have a distinct motivation aside from this. However, if we consider the majority, it is more likely that the effects on women are caused by the aforementioned factors.

Increase in unmarried population.

The number of singles has undergone tremendous development and expansion in recent decades. Over the age of 18, there are now over 55 million single adults. Adults who had never been married numbered 4 million in 1950. 1982 saw a rise in this figure to 19.4 million. From 10.9 million in 1970 to 19.4 million in 1982, or a 78% rise, the number of unmarried people who have never been married has increased just in the last ten years (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1980). Therefore, it seems that more people are delaying their first marriage or choosing singleness as a permanent way of life.

In 2014, a huge cultural shift happened in their culture when the number of single individuals was larger than the number of married persons in the U.S. Women are now graduating from college at a quicker rate than males as gender norms are shifting. In order to pursue jobs and entrepreneurship, many are delaying marriage and entering the workforce. According to the BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur’s Report, businesses owned by women generated 13% more income than enterprises controlled by males. In general, there aren’t many women in positions of leadership, and those who do succeed often end up on their own or being divorced. One reason is that as she develops her business, the woman outgrows her first husband both emotionally and financially. Some people see a relationship as a distraction from their ambitions. Being upset with someone or worrying about their thoughts or how they feel about themselves can disrupt their own work flow. Even worse, if there is a split, the emotional turmoil can make them unable to focus and think properly about the purpose of their business. 

Accordingly, to quantify the effect of increased labor income variability on marriage, the United States includes two additional relevant changes to the labor market. That is, married women’s labor force participation increases and the gender wage gap decreases. Both of these differences are important determinants of the size of the insured spouse. Whether or not a wife works and how much she earns determines how much of her income can be replaced by her husband in the event of a bad shock in the labor market. To increase female labor force participation, Regalia and Rios – Rull (2001) argue that closing the gender wage gap is important for delaying marriage. They argue that as women become richer, they are more willing to cooperate with their chosen partner. Moreover, Greenwood and Gunner (2009) argue that cheap furniture reduces the cost of running a household. This rendered obsolete the traditional household arrangement where the husband specialized in market work and the wife specialized in home production. Consequently, Greenwood and Gunner argue that marriage is associated with reduced gains from trade, and thus with reduced marriage (Santos & Weiss, 2016). In summary, rising income volatility has contributed significantly to delayed marriage. Other than that the following reasons can be introduced as some of the common causes of all these types of problems.

  • Focusing on education and focusing only on that. That is, trying to raise the educational level step by step.
  • Desire to work and earn money.
  • Perhaps because of the family background that at a childhood, there has been disappointment in marriage. That is, conflicts between parents in the family, riots and lack of harmony and not showing interest in marriage due to lack of affection between the family members.
  • At a higher level than their own level of education the opinion that a partner should be found.
  • Not wanting to be second to anyone. That is, unwillingness to submit to the partner in terms of educational levels or other capabilities.
  • Reluctance to depend on husband and desire to stand up independently.
  • Reluctance to be confined to a certain framework due to marriage. The sadness of losing the freedom to spend time with friends, has fun, and go on fun trips.
  • Reluctance to assume the obligations and responsibilities of marriage. That is, setting certain limits on friends and not wanting to be busy with childcare and household chores.
  • Thinking of relationships as a hindrance to the independent life that pays for itself


  • Thinking that if you have a job with a stable income stream, if your economy is strong, there is no need to depend on someone else.
  • Apart from this, avoiding marriage with the feeling that life can be enjoyed to the fullest by living alone and without family responsibilities.

Considering the above details and facts, the increase in the number of women employed in the labor force of a country and the increase in the number of unmarried people is a situation seen in almost every country. And this situation is higher in Sri Lanka compared to other countries. In view of the economic crisis and instability in Sri Lanka, we can expect a rise in female employment and an increase in the unmarried population. Because the youth community is made up of the above-mentioned thoughts and attitudes, many girls as well as boys have neglected the topic of marriage. Focusing on only two things, education and work, has greatly affected the increase of unmarried people. Accordingly, in fact, such causal factors can directly and indirectly affect the increase in women’s employment and the increase in the unmarried population.


Barsoum, G. (2019). ‘Women, work and family’: Educated women’s employment decisions and social policies in Egypt. Gender, Work and Organization, 26(7), 895–914. https://doi.org/10.1111/gwao.12285

Economics, A., & Library, D. (n.d.). This document is discoverable and free to researchers across the globe due to the work of AgEcon Search . Help ensure our sustainability .

Jaumotte, F. (2013). Female Labour Force Participation: Past Trends and Main Determinants in OECD Countries. SSRN Electronic Journal, 376. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2344556

Santos, C., & Weiss, D. (2016). “Why not settle down already?” A quantitative analysis of the delay in marriage. International Economic Review, 57(2), 425–452. https://doi.org/10.1111/iere.12163

Stichter, S. (1988). Women, Employment and the Family . Women, Employment and the Family in the International Division of Labour, 11–71.

Yousefy, A., & Baratali, M. (2011). Women, employment and higher education schoolings. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 15, 3861–3869. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.04.386

Diluka Bandara
Diluka Bandara
senior student, Rajarata university of Sri Lanka


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