Rural Training Centers to Unlock Female Labor

Through randomized controlled trial we are trying to understand the impacts of rural training centers on women, their households and their communities.

  • The female labor force participation rate in India fell from 36% in 2005-06 to 24% in 2015-16.
  • We are randomizing the placement of 10 rural training centers across 20 regions in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh to study the impacts of migrant employment opportunities.
  • Preliminary data collected through Participatory Rural Appraisals in 1300 villages across 53 taluks in Karnataka shows that for 57% of women the primary activity is working on the family farm.

Department for International Development, UK Government | Private Enterprise Development in Low-Income Countries (PEDL) | Boston College | University of Michigan | Boston College | University of Michigan | Ministry of Rural Development, India | Shahi Exports


The Female Labor Force Participation Rate (FLPR) in India is low, and shrinking. As per ILO estimates the last decade has witnessed the rate decline from 37% to 27%. To link skilling and female empowerment, central and state governments in India are subsidizing rural training centers that provide free vocational training and guaranteed employment opportunities to low income women in rural areas. These rural training centers have the potential to economically advance the large female population currently locked out of the labor force, and provide firms access to previously inaccessible labor. But, which women value this training, and ultimately take up and stay at the job? Who are the most interested and best suited for it, and how can the training centers identify them? Finally, even among those women who do take up training and employment and persist in the workforce, what is the true impact on their overall welfare and empowerment both in their households and at the workplace? These are the questions GBL is answering through its Rural Training Centres intervention in Karnataka, with the goal of influencing high level policy discussions around skilling.


We are randomizing the placement of 10 rural training centers across 20 candidate regions in rural Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Of a total of 240 villages, 120 will be given access to the treatment randomly, with direct encouragement and recruitment being received by roughly 1500 households. Through randomized controlled trial, we aim to understand the impacts of the introduction of migrant employment opportunities on the village economy, and households' welfare and resource sharing. Further, to understand the profiles of women who are most likely to partake in the training, take up the job and advance in their careers, we intend to introduce psychometric tests, measuring characteristics such as openness, extraversion, intrinsic motivation, grit, and numerical ability. These results can inform screening and targeting policies for related training initiatives. Finally, we also plan to introduce and randomize micro ordeals (small tasks that do not necessarily relate to job skills but filter out the less motivated candidates) in the hiring process of these training centers.


The extensive baseline survey, covering 2880 households in 20 taluks is currently being rolled out in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Data Insights

Preliminary data collected through Participatory Rural Appraisals in 1300 villages across 53 taluks in Karnataka show that for 57% of women the primary activity is working on the family farm. A little more than half (54.4%) the surveyed households reported a woman member working outside the home. Women reported spending nearly two hours cooking on a typical day while men spent less than half, 52 minutes. Our data further show that the gender imbalance persists in other spheres of life, such as taking care of children, participating in village politics and even surfing the internet. Further, if the woman of the house is not present, in two-thirds of the cases the responsibility of cooking, cleaning and child care shifts to the mother or mother-in-law. Only in around 22% of the cases does the husband take it up, and in 5% of the cases the father or father-in-law steps in.

Media Mentions

3 In 4 Indian Women Don’t Work. Can Skilling And Guaranteed Jobs Change That?

By IndiaSpend / 12-Mar-2018

Through our experiment, we want to see how training and employing a woman does not just generate additional income but has spillover effects on her family and community. Does it change a woman’s time-use pattern and alter the gendered nature of household tasks?

Job growth in India: Development means creating good jobs

By Financial Express / 21-Mar-2018

Job growth in India that accompanies output growth is anemic, although not absent. We need to focus on the process of creating jobs in which workers are more productive.

Role of private sector in the holistic skilling of India’s workforce

By Ideas For India / 14-Mar-2018

Businesses in developing countries are characterized by low labour productivity. This suppressed productivity is reflected in the remuneration workers receive.

New foundation promotes soft skills for workers in India

By Michigan News / 21-Mar-2018

Training workers with soft skills like time and stress management, problem solving, communication and teamwork can have big impacts on the productivity of workers and company profits, says a University of Michigan researcher Achyuta Adhvaryu, assistant professor of business economics and public policy at Michigan's Ross School of Business.

Good Business Lab: New foundation promotes soft skills for workers in garment sector

By The Economic Times / 31-Mar-2018

"Our goal with starting a foundation is to study interventions that have the potential to impact worker welfare while also promoting the growth of firms," Adhvaryu said in a statement. "We incubate new ideas and serve as a platform to disseminate findings from our research."

Investing in Worker Welfare Increases Welfare and Firm Productivity: Good Business Lab

By BusinessWorld / 11-Jan-2018

In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, the three co-founders of Good Business Lab, Achyuta Adhvaryu: Assistant Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy, University of Michigan, Anant Nyshadham: Assistant Professor of Economics, Boston College and Anant Ahuja: Head of Organizational Development, Shahi Exports discuss the research of Good Business Lab and why it is wise for firms to invest in its workers’ welfare.