Gender Dynamics in Meghalaya’s Economy

16 January 2024
ABOUT THIS Data story

Despite Meghalaya’s significant presence in the Northeast’s economic landscape, there are challenges that the State faces in aligning wage growth with workforce. This data story digs deeper and analyses the gender dynamics within its workforce.

This data story delves into the dynamics shaping the economy of Meghalaya, a state located in India’s Northeast. It spotlights the state’s sectoral contributions, analyses labour force participation rates, scrutinises prevailing wage trends and unravels the intriguing interplay of gender dynamics within its workforce.

Based on the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) at Constant Prices for the fiscal year 2021-22, Meghalaya holds a significant position within the Northeast’s economic landscape. With a GSDP of Rs. 242,667.60 million, Meghalaya is the region’s third-largest economy.

Table 1: Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) at Constant Prices, 2021-22
6Arunachal Pradesh198,005.30

Source: Handbook of Statistics on Indian States by RBI 

As in many other states in the Northeast, Meghalaya’s economic landscape is prominently shaped by the services sector, which acts as the primary driver of economic growth and constitutes a substantial 61.47 percent of the Gross State Value Added (GSVA). This sector encompasses diverse activities such as trade, hospitality, and education. Among the states in the region, Sikkim, with its industry-sector-led economy, is an outlier. In contrast, Meghalaya demonstrates significant reliance on the agriculture and industry sectors, which contribute 18.61 percent and 19.93 percent respectively to the overall GSVA. While these sectors do not individually constitute the biggest forces of growth, they collectively contribute to the economy in a balanced, complementary fashion.

Figure 1: Gross State Value Added (GSVA) at Constant Prices by Economic Activity (2021-22)

Source: Handbook of Statistics on Indian States by RBI 

With the second lowest per capita GSDP among the states in the region, Meghalaya’s per capita GSDP is roughly 33.3 percent below the national average. It lags behind Sikkim’s by approximately 76.1 percent, the state with the highest GSDP per capita in the region.

Figure 2: Per Capita GSDP (2021-22)

Source: Handbook of Statistics on Indian States by RBI 

Labour Force Participation in Meghalaya

The Northeast region has seen a notable pattern of moderate increases in labour force participation rates (LFPR) across all states, with some demonstrating a more rapid surge over the years. Meghalaya stands out for maintaining consistently high LFPR levels, consistently surpassing the 60 percent mark. The state boasts one of the highest LFPRs, trailing behind only Sikkim and Nagaland. Notably, there has been an 11.45 percent increase in its LFPR, with the figure climbing from 62.6 percent in 2018-19 to 69.8 percent in 2022-23.

Over the last five years, Meghalaya has consistently outperformed the national average LFPR, with percentage differences ranging from 15.21 percent to 28.35 percent. In the most recent year, this difference stood at 27.75 percent. Thus, whether viewed in the context of the regional landscape or the national scenario, Meghalaya has performed commendably in terms of labour force participation.

The Periodic Labour Force Survey 2022-23 highlights significant disparities in workforce participation between males and females both in Northeast states and the entire country. Meghalaya stands out yet again: with a relatively lower gender gap of 24.29 percent in the region, it stands in stark contrast to the rest of India, where the gender gap is an alarmingly high 112.66 percent. Among the Northeast states, Assam exhibits the most pronounced difference, with a striking 174.14 percent gap between male and female participation rates.

Figure 3: Male and Female LFPR (2022-23)

Source: Periodic Labour Force Survey from 2018-19 to 22-23

The charts below tell a compelling story. The Male Labour Force Participation Rate (MLFPR) in the region has a positive trajectory, maintaining stability within the 65 to 80 percent range. This regional consistency is mirrored in Meghalaya’s MLFPR, which has remained relatively constant. Experiencing a marginal uptick from 76.3 percent in 2018-19 to 79.6 percent in 2022-23, the state’s MLFPR saw a growth of 4.3 percent.

Figure 4: Male Labour Force Participation rate (MLFPR in %) CWS

Source: Periodic Labour Force Survey from 2018-19 to 22-23

Figure 5: Female Labour Force Participation rate (FLFPR in %) CWS

Source: Periodic Labour Force Survey from 2018-19 to 22-23

In contrast, the Female LFPR (FLFPR) for the region showcases a broader spectrum, fluctuating from as low as 12.6 percent to as high as 67.1 percent. Meghalaya’s FLFPR, however, has demonstrated consistent growth, surging from 49.3 percent in 2018-19 to 60.6 percent in 2022-23, reflecting a notable 23 percent increase. Also noteworthy is that Meghalaya’s FLFPR consistently surpasses the national average. In addition, FLFPR data reflects another trend—accelerated pace of growth, not only within Meghalaya, but also across the region.

Wage story

Figure 6: Average wage earnings per day

Source: Periodic Labour Force Survey from 2018-19 to 22-23

Wage data on the Northeast region reflects a consistently positive trend from 2018-19 to 2022-23, with all states witnessing a steady wage rise. Arunachal Pradesh emerges as a standout performer with an impressive 55.70 percent growth in wages. Notably, Assam, Manipur, and Tripura also registered substantial increases in wages, with growth rates of 49.48 percent, 52.27 percent, and 54.14 percent respectively. Through this period, Sikkim has consistently maintained the apex position in terms of wage levels among the states and has witnessed a growth rate of 48.63 percent.

In the year 2018-19, Meghalaya’s average daily wage was above the All-India average, with its workforce earning a noteworthy 10.83 percent more than the national average. Over time, this gap gradually narrowed and, by 2022-23, Meghalaya’s average wage exceeded the All-India average only marginally—by approximately 0.99 percent. With 32.54 percent growth in wages, Meghalaya maintained a more measured pace in comparison to some of its regional counterparts. In 2022-23, the average daily wage in Meghalaya was Rs. 407, the lowest among all Northeast states.

Figure 7: Gender wage gap %

Source: Periodic Labour Force Survey from 2018-19 to 22-23

In the current scenario, the majority of Northeast states have made commendable strides in narrowing the gender wage gap, with the notable exceptions of Meghalaya and Assam. Despite overall wage growth in Meghalaya, the economic upswing in the region disproportionately favoured male workers, marginalising women in the process. Meghalaya has grappled with a persistently high gender wage gap, ranging from 31 percent to 38 percent. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fiscal year 2020-21 exacerbated this issue, with the gender wage gap soaring to an alarming 71 percent. Although the state recovered significantly in the subsequent year, reducing the gap to 22.6 percent, the wage gap subsequently reverted to its customary range of above 30 percent.

Despite high LFPR for both males and females in Meghalaya, indicating good engagement in the workforce, wages in Meghalaya are low. This contrasts with states like Sikkim, where both male and female LFPR are not only high, but also accompanied by elevated wages.

Sectoral employment

Table 2: Gender-wise Employment in Meghalaya: Sectoral Breakdown
 Primary sectorSecondary sectortertiary sectorPrimary sectorSecondary sectortertiary sectorPrimary sectorSecondary sectortertiary sector

Source: Periodic Labour Force Survey from 2018-19 to 22-23

The data spanning 2018-19 to 2022-23 reveals notable shifts in the distribution of labour across primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors. The primary sector experienced a significant decline of 20.24 percent in 2020-21 compared to the previous year. In subsequent years growth persisted, with a substantial 9.52 percent increase in 2022-23, pointing to a revival in activities related to agriculture and other primary sector activities. The secondary sector displayed marginal growth in 2020-21 (+8.65 percent) and continued to grow modestly in the following years. The tertiary sector, however, witnessed a contrasting trend. After a steady decline in 2020-21 (-9.41 percent), the tertiary sector’s share in the workforce continued to contract, experiencing a notable 11.27 percent decrease in 2022-23.

While the state of Meghalaya maintains a significant position in the Northeast’s economic landscape, its distinctive reliance on service sectors, coupled with a comparatively low per capita GSDP, sets it apart from its neighbours. Despite enjoying high labour force participation rates, particularly among women, challenges persist. The persistent gender wage gap is an area for improvement, and it is vital that challenges in aligning wage growth with workforce engagement be addressed.