How NSSO Survey Fools You On Gender Pay Gap


Have you ever realized how the National Sample Survey (NSSO) reports fool you? A recent example is their May 2018 report titled “Women and Men In India – 2017”. In Chapter 4 of this report, table 4.15 shows the average daily wages of male/female workers of the age group 15-59. This report categorizes workers based on their education level and classified them into following classes – “Not Literate”, “Literate Up to Middle”, “Secondary and Higher Secondary”, “Diploma/Certificate”, “Graduate and Above” and ‘All’. This table further divides the workers into ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ and also based on a different industry. If you look at this table, you will find under all categories of ‘education’ and under all ‘industry’ segment, ‘daily average wage’ of women is less compared to men in the same category.

So, based on the above data do you think women on average earn less compared to men in that industry? Hold on to your thoughts, before I explain how this data fool you and how you should look at this data differently. I shall explain this by taking an example from some industries from the same NSSO report.


NSSO report shows that women working in the rural agriculture sector earn Rs. 101.24 compared to Rs. 168.83 earned by men. In urban areas these figures are Rs. 160.35 and Rs. 438.14 respectively. But if based on these figures you conclude that women in the agricultural sector earn a less average wage and hence there is a gender wage pay gap, that will be a wrong conclusion.

Agriculture is a vast segment and there are various types of work involved in the agricultural sector. Someone ploughs the land, someone cut the crops, someone makes bundles and someone carries them. If you notice all hard labour work like ploughing the land is done by males. Other work like bundling the crops or carrying the crops is done by female workers. Even when a man is taking up roles that women take up (like say carrying the crops), an average man carries more crop at a time compared to women. When men do most of the hard labour, does it even make any sense for them to get the same level of wages as women? So, the pay gap shown in this sector can’t be considered a gender gap in reality. If you really probe into it, there may be different men earning different amounts for doing the same job (say ploughing the land). Does that mean even those men are discriminated? Simply no. Because even when two men are doing the same job, not necessarily they are bringing the same revenue and hence it doesn’t make any sense to pay them equally.

Mining & Quarrying

This is the best sector to understand how the NSSO findings are misinterpreted. For this industry, you will find lesser literate women earning more wages compared to higher literate women. For example, in rural sectors, illiterate women earn Rs. 483.5 compared to Rs. 433.29 for “Literate and Up to Middle” females, Rs. 95.15 for ‘Secondary and Higher Secondary’ educated females, Rs. 175 for ‘Diploma/Certificate’ holders and only Rs 120.47 for ‘Graduates and Above’ females. Take a look at the graph below –

Average wages in the mining industry for different levels of education

Please notice in the above graph that women who are less educated, earn more compared to those women who have higher education. Does that mean there is a gap in wages even among women? Absolutely ‘NO’. This is because the wages are determined by the type of work done by an individual. Less-educated women who work in mines may get more wages compared to educated women who work in an office environment. The same applies to men as well. There are males who are graduate and above, still work in mines directly (mining engineers) to earn more.


The table 4.15 has two rows for the manufacturing sector and under all education segment, it is seen that the average wages of women is less compared to men and that also does not mean there is a gender pay gap.

In my initial career, I have worked in the Engineering sector. A small example from there can clarify this point easily. In a Rolling Mill or in a Foundry setup it is all male workers who work in dangerous, life-threatening roles. Many lose their limbs while working under hazardous condition. Their pay is obviously more compared to office-based workers and sometimes even more than some quality engineers. I have seen workers with hardly any literacy earning much more compared to me, who was a fresh pass out engineer working in the quality lab. In this company, there were female workers in the packing department. They only worked in general shift, in light packing jobs involving no heavy machinery or threats to life. Whereas we worked in shifts round the clock. Under these situations, do you expect those women to be paid at a similar level as the male workers working in hazardous conditions or in night shifts? Is that kind of condition even sustainable for an industry? Is that feasible for the economy? So, if we take the average wages of male and female employees there, male employees will always be highly paid and there is no gender gap there.

Similarly, other industries can be taken, and it can be shown that women opting for roles are less paying compared to those men opt for. At this juncture, we need to understand how one’s salary/wages are determined.

How One’s Salary is Decided

It is unlikely that you don’t understand how one’s salary is decided but for the feminist morons, who jump on half-information, it is important that we look at the factors that drive one’s salary in any industry.

Labor Supply/Demand

Why do some people earn less money compared to others? One simple reason that drives anybody’s compensation is simple economic principles of supply and demand. If one is in a role which is in high demand, one is likely to get paid more. One’s educational abilities don’t matter here. For example, if working directly in mines is in high demand (because no one wants to do that), then the salary/wages of those people will be higher irrespective of their education. That is why we see less educated women who may be working near mines get paid more compared to educated office-based workers. Also, since office-based workers are aplenty in supply their demand and price will be less. If all graduate women prefer office-based work in the mining industry, they can’t just expect matching wages as men working in mines.

Industry Standard

The industry standard is another factor that drives salary in one particular position. This standard also changes over time to correct based on various factors including but not limited to inflation. So, a receptionist in an IT firm and a receptionist in a manufacturing unit can’t expect the same salary. Even though their roles may be the same, job expectations may be different.

Salary Band for Similar Positions

What we also need to understand is that every position in a company has a salary band within which all employees working in that position is fixed. That means if as a male data entry operator, I get a certain sum as my salary, another person (male or female or confused gender) may not get the same salary as mine. It is because we may fall in the same band but not at the same exact amount. This is true for all corporates and for all positions.

Salary Depends on One’s Negotiation Skills

One’s salary also depends on one’s negotiation skills. Even when we go for job/role change interviews if we don’t negotiate well, our salary will be at the lower end of the salary band for that position. There is no hatred here. If we fail to market ourselves well, if we fail to show how much value we can add in that new role, we will always be given the lower end of the band. This is true for all annual appraisals as well. Unless we can showcase our past achievements and future commitments, most often we will lose out in the race of salary hike.

Salary Depends on Location

Our salary is also a factor in our location of work. For example, two project managers working in two different cities will get different salaries. In fact, even when the same person is asked to relocate to another place, he is given a salary hike. You take any role in Kolkata and compare similar roles in Bangalore or Mumbai you will see this difference. There are different perks given to people working in different places.

Other Salary Determinants

There may be other intangible determinants of one’s salary. Like, one’s relationship with one’s colleagues, manager, clients or the abilities to take extra responsibilities. A person taking additional responsibilities, working extra hours or helping the organization achieve its organizational goals, should be given more salary compared to another person in the same position but sticking only to one’s job role. These intangible parameters very often become so unclear that employees start talking about bias. But no company management is the fool that they will continue to keep worthless people in their roles without properly valued contribution. It simply doesn’t make any business sense for a company to give one employee more salary based on one’s gender.

What Matters in Paycheck

In fact, to understand the gap better, we need to take a look at another table in the same NSSO report. It’s table 3.17 –

Number of females per 100 males
Number of Females per 100 males in University Education

If you look at the table above you will find more male students studying high paying professional courses like Science, IT & Computer, Engineering etc. So, it’s more likely that on average there will be more males in those positions and they will get more salary. However, if we look at the medical profession where women are studying more, we may find women getting more salary there. But NSSO survey didn’t cover hospitals to provide clarity in that matter.

Why All Wage Gap Theories Are Lies

Based on the NSSO survey, you may find different scholarly articles, lectures by professors and politicians and even by our courts that how biased our corporates are to their women employees. Since there is a government survey from NSSO that shows clearly that there exists a differential in the average salary of a female and male employee in different industries, that will be considered as a proof of social bias against women.

Gender wage gap
When women study Arts/Humanities/Medicine more, data is collected from Engineering Industries

We need to understand one basic point if for doing the same job for getting same output any company can hire women employees at lesser pay, wouldn’t it make more sense for them to hire only women employees and get rid of males? You don’t need to be a shrewd businessman or entrepreneur to understand this. Unfortunately, feminist scholars don’t understand this. If you go to any University or policy-making organization, you will see how statisticians and learned professors will talk about this gender gap, when there is none exist.

I have also got confirmation of this from the Sheroes Conference in Bangalore in the year 2014. I was invited to the conference as a sole male participant. This topic of the gender wage gap was discussed among female CXO and they have categorically refuted this theory. Facebook India MD, Krithiga Reddy commented that “she had observed the women don’t negotiate much”. That’s it.

What Is Worrisome in NSSO Survey

If anything is worrisome in this NSSO report of workforce participation, that is not the pay gap because there is none. Rather the falling trend of urban women’s participation in the workforce is the cause of grave concern.

Trend in Workforce Participation
The trend in workforce participation since 2000-2001

The graph above shows the trend of men’s and women’s participation in the workforce since early 2000. A clear visible trend is that women participation in the workforce has declined since 2004-05. We can’t forget one important point that directly adds to our families. In 2005, the Domestic Violence Act was passed and under this act, women were given free maintenance and permanent alimony on divorce. Since then, many women stopped working and permanently started living on alimony/maintenance.

This is even more detrimental to society when we see that under several programs like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, women’s education is getting a boost. As a result, we see a falling trend in the male literacy rate. The same NSSO survey shows us these trends –

Trend in Literacy rate
The trend in literacy rates shows the average change for females was more than that of males in the last two decades

It is alarming because still, no one talks about falling literacy rate in males since 2001 (notice that the slope of male literacy rate decreases) but everyone talks about educating women who do not even participate in the economy.

Now if we look at the trend in adult literacy rate from this NSSO survey in India, we will find a similar trend.

Trend in Adult Literacy Rate
Even in adult literacy females have shown more progress

When the social expectation is that males continue to pay maintenance and alimony to their female partners because they were ever together, a falling trend in literacy in males after 2001 is surely a cause of concern. This also shows that the courts giving such orders are far from reality.

What Feminists Say About Falling Women Participation

Feminists, however, continue to blame the patriarchy for women not participating in the economy. In our universities, feminist teachers teach their ‘Gender Studies’ students that women not participating in the economy because of social bias, social hardships, and many other patriarchal oppressions. In IIT Kharagpur’s Gender studies class, where I attended a workshop on Gender Justice in 2017, the women professors (and bureaucrats) even said that maybe women working but that work is not registered. But as you understand, it is highly unlikely that women’s work is not registered in 2011-12 but was registered in early 2000 (in early ‘90s women participation was even more).

Also, it is highly unlikely that patriarchy is oppressing women more today compared to what it did in the early ‘90s or early 2000. We all know that today women have not only more job openings, but there are many jobs that are reserved only for women. We don’t find that happening to men. There is no job that is reserved only for men. Even the Mining sector is opened up to women.


From the above discussion, we understand that the NSSO survey on gender pay gap is not only a vague survey, but it is also a useless one. The fact that our statisticians behind this survey or in the ministry and our professors in our universities are jumping around with this result, shows the pathetic standard of those scholars. It raises a serious question about their quality to understand a problem and even a true will to rectify that. The gender wage gap is not only a vague theory, but it is created by some jobless, worthless feminist scholars who don’t have any other meaningful work. There can’t be any bias based on gender in the industry for the simple reason, that it doesn’t make any business sense to hire men if women workers can deliver the same value at the same cost.


[This is a part of Modern Feminism Series, where I discuss all modern feminist theories, their origin and why those theories are wrong.

All articles under Modern Feminism can be found – Here]


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