Soundarya IYER

Associated Researcher

  soundaryai AT rvu DOT edu


Soundarya Iyer is Assistant Professor at RV University, Bengaluru, and Associated Researcher at the French Institute of Pondicherry. She is interested in interdisciplinary approaches to the study of agrarian change, gender, and livelihoods in India. She was the Sir Ratan Tata Post-doctoral Fellow 2018-19 at the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK. She is currently researching the sociology of the decline in female labour force participation in rural Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.


Understanding the Sociology of Declining Rural Female Labour Force Participation Rate in India

Female labour force participation rates have historically been low in India, but have recently received considerable attention in research, policy and practice due to their decline over the last two decades. Women’s greater participation in education, social and religious norms, the ‘income effect’, lack of safe work standards, gender pay differentials and lack of jobs have been proposed as possible explanations, yet there is no consensus or clarity. Gender divisions of labour that shape women’s participation in care work, household work and paid work have long been an area of interest in gender and development, given their centrality in mediating women’s agency, wellbeing, and indeed empowerment. The importance of the socio-cultural and political- economic context in shaping outcomes has seen substantial academic work from sociologists and social anthropologists, focusing on the intersections of caste, nature of work, gender and status production. Using qualitative approaches, in this study, we seek to build on our previous research in rural Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, to better understand the generational changes in women's work in rural contexts. We fill a gap in the literature by placing this exploration in the context of changes in gender relations driven both by changing employment opportunities and state welfare provisioning. This project is funded by the Azim Premji University Research Funding Programme 2019 and is co-investigated with Prof. Nitya Rao, Professor of Gender and Development, School of International Development, University of East Anglia, UK.

Other Publications

  1. Chandni Singh, Soundarya Iyer, Mark G. New, Roger Few, Bhavana Kuchimanchi, Alcade C. Segnon & Daniel Morchain (2021). Interrogating ‘effectiveness’ in climate change adaptation: 11 guiding principles for adaptation research and practice, Climate and Development, DOI: 10.1080/17565529.2021.1964937
  2. Soundarya Iyer, Sarayu Srinivasan Nitya Rao (2022). Women's Work Participation in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu: A Review of the Literature, Economic and Political Weekly, 57 (7): 23-27.Iyer, S. (2017) ‘Circular Migration and Localized Urbanization in Rural India’. Environment and Urbanization ASIA 8 (1): 105-119.
  3. Pani, N. and Iyer, S. (2015) ‘Towards a Framework to Determine Backwardness: Caste, Inequality and Reservations in India’. Journal of South Asian Development. 10 (1): 48-72.
  4. Singh, C.; Solomon, D.; Bendapudi, R.; Kuchimanchi, B.; Iyer, S. and Bazaz, A. (2019) ‘What shapes vulnerability and risk management in semi-arid India? Moving towards an agenda of sustainable adaptation’. Environmental Development. 30: 35-50.