VIKALP: exploratory study and policy brief on skilling and non-traditional livelihoods

Publication year


Publication Author

Anand, S., Nanda, S., Pal, P. & Sharma, S.

In a context where female labor force participation in India has been declining consistently over the last three decade, this suite of research seeks to better understand the motivations and challenges for women in India to enter into and stay in the workforce. It is part of an exploratory study that aims to shed light on the domains of women’s work considered “non-traditional,” as well as what kinds of interventions can support a new approach toward gender-transformative work.


Explore the Publications

Research Report: An Exploratory Study on Non-traditional Livelihoods

Download the research report

Policy Report: Skilling and Non-traditional Livelihoods

Download the policy report

Research Brief: Women, Work and Livelihoods During COVID-19

Read the brief

Key Findings

This analysis looks at multiple threads of enablers and barriers that women encounter with respect to participation in the workforce across three key pillars of social organization — households, markets and the state. It finds that:

  • The world of work for women is complex and fluid. It is highly determined by existing gender norms that are reflected across the three pillars of social organization.
  • Creation of an enabling environment, as such, is limited by these norms and structures. This includes obvious considerations such as policies for encouraging women’s skilling and training in certain trades, quotas for recruitment and promotions across sectors, promoting women’s leadership and so on; but also includes addressing underlying considerations of safety in public spaces, quality education, and early sensitization of men for reducing the burden of unpaid and care work on women, among other factors.
  • A crucial component of this ecosystem is influenced by the markets, which provide a platform for convergence of women’s agency, household level determinants of women’s choice and decision-making, policy implementation, presentation of economic trends, and formation of linkages between economic and broader development outcomes.

Based on the findings, it proposes a new framework (see Figure 6 below) to enable further understanding of work to achieve a gender transformative potential in women’s lives, of which non-traditional livelihoods is a key element.


Key recommendations:

Employment domain ++
Policies need to shift focus to conditions at work and terms of employment, creation of an enabling environment to enhance women’s choices with respect to the kind of work they can take up, access to social security benefits, violence-free workplaces, minimal gender pay gaps and offering opportunities across sectors rather than in the gender segregated manner in some sectors and select job roles within sectors, etc.

Skills domain ++
Skills must be viewed not only as a link to employment, but as a comprehensive mechanism to enable women to make better work choices.

Addressing gaps in policy response to women’s unpaid work
Evidence suggests (Oxfam India 2020; Gammage et al., 2018) that women are disproportionately burdened with unpaid work, leaving less time for them to engage in paid work, education, leisure, self-care, political participation and other economic activities.

Expanding scope of policy directives to include women and girls in non-traditional livelihood options
ICRW research study highlights many linkages with respect to women’s participation in paid work – be it within the household, community, workplace or wider labor market in both traditional livelihoods or NTLs.


Publication Rights:

The research reported in this publication has been conducted as part of a study undertaken by ICRW Asia, Vikalp: An Exploratory Study on Non-Traditional Livelihoods, supported by the Ford Foundation.

Suggested Citations:

Pal, P., Nanda, S., Anand, S. Sharma, S., and Nandi, S., 2020. Vikalp: Policy Report on Skilling and Non-Traditional
Livelihoods. New Delhi: International Center for Research on Women.

Anand, S., Nanda, S., Pal, P. & Sharma, S. 2020. Vikalp: An Exploratory Study on Non-Traditional Livelihoods. New Delhi:
International Center for Research on Women