Skip to main content

Please note: this event has passed


India’s investment in human capital has to address not only the skilling requirements of the changing composition of economic growth but also the aspirations of an ever youthful and educated workforce growing at 12 million per annum. New technologies are likely to automate many jobs, create new ones and amend existing ones. This implies a need for adaptable skill sets for young adults, particularly for young women (Skills report, 2018). There is an urgent need to understand how targeted programmes can support the entry of women into the labour force today, as the rapid economic growth in India since the 1990s as not been able to accelerate female participation rates-and only one in five women are active in the Indian labour market (World Bank, 2021).

This talk is based on a paper that uses qualitative case studies to understand the challenges faced by skilling programmes to increase women's participation in the labour force. These case studies suggest that training programmes need to engage more fully with existing gender relations, not just female trainees, to identify how a training programme dovetails with different livelihood patterns and aspirations.

The paper also recognises that that the puzzle of the falling female labour participation rate, is partly a consequence of the continued problem of a predominantly informal labour market. It concludes that there is also a larger context of gendered labour laws, gender gaps between formal and informal sector employment and broader social norms that also need to be included in investigations to explain the low female labour participation rate in India.


Professor Shailaja Fennell

Shailaja Fennell is Professor of Regional Transformation and Economic Security in the Department of Land Economy. She obtained her BA, MA and MPhil in Economics from Delhi University, before coming to the University of Cambridge to obtain another MPhil, and then her PhD in Economics at the Faculty of Economics. She is a fellow of Jesus College, and also Director of the Centre of South Asian Studies.

Her research interests include institutional reform and regional transformation. She has a particular focus on national and local decision making, rural development and agricultural sustainability; youth migration and employment aspirations; provision of public goods in the spheres of education and health. 

Shailaja was the global lead on an ASEAN funded project (2019-2021), and with her core Cambridge-based team was responsible for designing the framework, commissioning over 50 global experts and compiling the latest research to deliver the first ASEAN Development Outlook, a publication that focused on policies to ensure inclusion and sustainability in South-East Asia.

Event details

Small Committee Room K0.31
King's Building
Strand Campus, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS