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Sowmya Dhanaraj on women at work in India

WIDER Seminar Series

On 6 September 2017, Sowmya Dhanaraj of the Madras School of Economics will present her work on women at work in India. 

Abstract – Easing entry and improving job retention for rural Indian women: The role of family structure

Culture is considered as one of the fundamental determinants of economic outcomes. In the context of families, cultural and traditional norms may influence the labour market participation decisions of the members of households. For example; in a joint family set-up in India where the decision-making authority lies with the older generation and more weight is allotted to communal (family) income than individual income, a daughter in law could meet with family resistance for working outside home. We test this proposition for rural Indian women by investigating if residing in a joint family affects non-farm employment outcome for married women.

Our estimates based on a longitudinal survey of over 27000 rural women in India conducted in 2005 and 2012, and using the two-way fixed effects and instrumental variable approach suggest that residing in a joint family lowers women’s non-farm employment by more than 10% points largely through restricting their decision-making power and mobility. The results are in contrast with evidence from other Asian countries such as China and Japan where a joint family acts as a support system for childcare as well as sharing of household production work, thereby allowing younger women to move into formal employment. There is some evidence from our analysis to suggest that higher levels of education are likely to improve the decision-making power of young women within a joint family and thereby raise their welfare. Also, government interventions to improve job opportunities in non-farm sector and provision of affordable and reliable childcare facilities would improve employment rates further. 

WIDER Seminar Series

The WIDER Seminar Series showcases recent and ongoing work on key topics in development economics. The weekly sessions held in Helsinki are open to local and visiting researchers, policy makers, and others working on development topics. Click here to read more about the WIDER Seminar Series.