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This study explores the rural labour market in Assam. The Work Participation Rates (WPR) for males has increased during the period 1993-94 to 2009-10, whereas the same for females has been fluctuating around a lower level of 15 to 20 per cent. Thus, unemployment rates for females have been higher than males. A sector-wise distribution of workers shows that the proportion of males employed in the farm sector has been declining in favour of the Non-Farm Sector (NFS), while the females are more concentrated in the farm sector. Thus, females stand in a more disadvantageous situation in the rural labour market as indicated by their low WPR, higher unemployment rates and low level of diversification into NFS. However, gender equality is necessary for growth. This is more so with regard to education and employment. India has introduced the concept of inclusive growth in the Eleventh Five Year Plan. Inclusive growth ensures opportunities for all sections of the population, with a special emphasis on the poor, particularly women and young people, who are most likely to be marginalised. A rapidly growing population in India has not only increased the size of the rural labour force but has also led to fragmentation of land holdings. Thus, this sector alone cannot create additional employment opportunities, even in high growth agriculture states of India. This has led to the growth of a vibrant non-farm sector. The study comes up with the suggestion that the NFS, with its greater potential of employment generation, can not only solve the unemployment problem, but can also lead to the increased access of women to resources and employment opportunities.
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