Women break new ground in MGNREGS

They make up 57.8% of the scheme beneficiaries in 2022-23 — a 10-year high; Bihar and U.P. record a high proportion of women workers

The proportion of women workers participating in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has touched a 10-year high in the financial year 2022-23. According to the latest statistics available with the Union Rural Development Ministry, 57.8% of the workers who used the scheme this year were women, their highest level of participation since 2012-13.

Of the 15 States (Kerala, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh) that The Hindu reviewed, 14 States reported an upward trend in women’s participation.

The only exception is Kerala, where the drop is miniscule. For the past five years, in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, women’s share in the MGNREGS workforce has been hovering between 85% and 90%.

According to Kerala Rural Development Minister M.B. Rajesh, this is the result of two factors: market forces and welfare incentives for women MGNREGS workers. The gap between MGNREGS wages and market wages is high in the State, especially for male workers who are paid far more than women in the open market. This makes MGNREGS work much less attractive for men.

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