India’s 2005 National Rural Employment Guarantee Act creates a justiciable 'right to work' by promising up to 100 days of wage employment per year to all rural households whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. Work is provided in public works projects at the stipulated minimum wage. 

An analysis of the National Sample Survey data for 2009-10 confirms expectations that poorer states of India have more demand for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. However, we find considerable unmet demand for work on the scheme in all states, and more so in the poorest ones, where the scheme is needed most. Nonetheless, the scheme is reaching the rural poor and backward classes and is attracting poor women into the workforce.

This paper examines the performance thus far of MGNREGS in meeting the demand for work across states. It focuses in the scheme‘s ability to reach India‘s rural poor and other identity-based groups, notably backward castes, tribes and takes a closer look at women‘s participation and how this is influenced by the
rationing of work under MGNREGS.