The share of agricultural workers in the female workforce is very high, 72.8 per cent in 2004-05, while for males it is much lower at 48.9 per cent.
Among female agricultural workers, the share of those working as farmers has been slightly lower than for males in the earlier years (Employment-Unemployment Surveys of NSSO). However, in 2004-05 the share of farmers among men and women was almost equalized 64.4 per cent among women and 64 among men agricultural workers.
Among the small farmers, 62 per cent of men and 85 per cent of women are illiterate or have education upto primary level. Only about 20 per cent of the male small farmers and 6 per cent of the female small farmers had levels of education above secondary schooling.
Percentage of female agricultural labourers in the total workforce in rural areas has declined from 36.5% in 1999-2000 to 29.2% in 2004-05.
The incidence of child female agricultural labourers (2.4 per cent) is higher than for child male labourers (1.5 per cent) in 2004-05.
Gender disparity within agriculture is also high though the ratio of female wages to male agricultural manual wages has remained unchanged at about 0.70 since 1993-94 indicating that male wages are 1.4 times the female wages.
The wage employment days available for female agricultural labourers were 196 in 1993-94, which declined to 184 in 2004-05.
There was no feminisation of agriculture till 2000, however, the share of women workers in agriculture in 2004-05 showed an increase. The obverse is observed for the process of casualisation of female workforce in agriculture, i.e., proportion of agricultural labourers among female workers in agriculture.
Casualisation of the workforce in agriculture occurred from 1983 to 2000 for men and women and in 2004-05 when the feminisation of the workforce seemed to have occurred, there was no further casualisation of the workforce.
As per the Census 2001, total work force in India is 400 million of which 68.37 percent are male workers and 31.63 percent are female workers.
The total agriculture workforce in India is 234,270,000 as per 2001 census, of which 38.99 percent is contributed by female workforce and 60.93 percent is male workforce.
46.23 percent of the agricultural labourers are women whereas, 32.91 percent of the total cultivators are women who perform low end jobs. In comparison, 67.09% of cultivators are male.
In India, agriculture is a highly gender sensitive sector. Almost 75.38% of all women workforce are engaged in agriculture. Within agriculture, 94% of women in crop cultivation are in cereal production and other crops n.e.c., 1.4% in vegetable production and horticulture, while 3.72% are engaged in fruits, nuts, beverages, and spice crops.
Foodgrains production draws about 33 percent of its labour from women. Growing of sugarcane and sugar beet draws 25.5 percent of its labour force from women.
Animal Husbandry employs 7.03% of women workers who are engaged in agriculture.
The Plantation sector is a large employer of women that employs 6.86 percent of the total women force in the agriculture allied activities and fisheries sector employs 0.49 percent of the women.
Agriculture, with its low requirement of skills and work which can be more easily combined with work at home, is an easy source of work for women. Many women also work as unpaid family labour. Due to lack of education and training, women who are engaged in agriculture are less able to shift easily to other higher skilled jobs, for example, in the services sector. This makes them dependent on this sector and on its stable growth for survival.
As per the NSS Report 2004-05, the involvement of women in various agricultural activities in percentage terms (percentage distribution among women agricultural workers according to activity) is 1.23 percent in ploughing, 4.2 percent in sowing, 6.13 percent in transplanting, 23.82 percent in weeding and 23.64 percent in harvesting and 40.98 percent in other cultivation activities.
While gender wage disparity in all these activities is about the same, about 70 percent, activities like ploughing, dominated by men, seem to command the highest level of wages while weeding activities earn the lowest, implying a gap of Rs. 9.46 per day for males. The gap between wages for ploughing earned by males and weeding wages earned by females is Rs. 21.47.
In rural areas, women earn about 70 percent of men's wages in terms of both regular and casual wages. Wages also seem to vary significantly by location, education status and age group.
Women seldom enjoy property ownership rights directly in their names. Even when women have mutations of land in their names, they may not have actual control over that land. Decision making in cropping patterns, sale, mortgage and the purchase of land or the instruments of production remains in the hands of the men of the household.