Independent Incomes Give Women Greater Say : Daily Current Affairs

Date: 24/09/2022

Relevance: GS-2: Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Key Phrases: Financial inclusion, Women’s empowerment, NFHS–5, Participation, Household decision-making, Freedom, Healthcare access, Income and education, Article 15(1), Article 16, Equal pay for equal work, Article 42, Child marriage, Illiteracy, Educational programs.

Why in News?

  • Own earnings of women supported by education for all could challenge some of our restrictive gender norms and practice.


  • Empowerment is assumed to strengthen vulnerable groups’ participation in decision-making.
  • Employment is expected to bolster the individual’s autonomy both within and outside households and play a key role in achieving equality.
  • The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data offers us scope to look into whether economic empowerment bridges the Indian gap in gender equality as it collects information on women’s decision-making in various domains:
    • Intra-household decisions like household purchases,
    • Meeting friends/relatives,
    • Own healthcare needs,
    • Spending own money,
    • Family planning,
    • Use of contraception.

How financial inclusion is bolstering women’s empowerment?

  • The NFHS–5 shows that financial inclusion might have bolstered the participation of women in household decision-making.
    • The NFHS 5 (2019-2021) reveals that a little more than 85% of married women with their own cash income have agency of joint decision-making with husbands on important expenditures.
    • The rest have mostly husbands (or someone else) making unilateral decisions on household purchases, their healthcare needs, meeting with friends/relatives, and how they spend their own money.
    • For all women, irrespective of whether they earn cash income or not, 8% do not have any say on using contraceptives and the sole decision-maker is still the husband.
    • Urban women enjoy higher freedom to spend in comparison with rural women.
    • Among urban women with cash income, up to 90% have a say in major expenditures related to the household. This share is 82-84% for rural women.
    • The data also reveals that 66-73% women with cash income make joint decisions on these various issues.

How education is bolstering women’s empowerment?

  • The data shows that higher levels of education correlate well with greater participation of women in decision-making in various domains like
    • Use of contraception,
    • Spending their own money,
    • Major household purchases,
    • Healthcare access for themselves,
    • Meeting friends and family.

Income and education impact to Empower women:

  • The data shows that for 16-17% women with cash income but without any education, husbands solely decide on all the above.
  • The share comes down significantly to 7-8% in decisions on how to spend their own money, meeting relatives/friends, major household purchases, and to 11% on decisions regarding healthcare access, when the women’s education is higher than the secondary level.
  • On the use of contraception, this share comes down from 11% for women without any education to 3% for women with education higher than secondary level.
  • It is also found that being married to more educated men increases women’s participation in decision-making.
  • For approximately 16-17% women with cash income who are married to men without any education, husbands alone decide on those issues, whereas for women married to men with education higher than secondary level, that share is lower at 9% on decisions related to how their wives spend their own money.
  • Findings from NFHS data show that education plays an important role in ensuring the participation of women in intra-household decision-making.
  • Specifically, women without education cannot exercise their opinion even when they earn more than their spouses.
  • Women’s opinions are included in household decisions more when their male partners are educated.
  • Thus, it is amply clear that education for all, complemented by own earnings of women, improves intra-household decision-making in favour of women.

Constitutional Provisions in Support of Women Empowerment:

  • A number of articles of the Constitution repeated towards the socio-economic development of women and participation decision making. These are:
    • Article 14: Men and women to have equal rights and opportunities in the political, economic and social spheres.
    • Article 15(1): Prohibits discrimination against any citizens on the grounds of religion, race, sex, caste etc.
    • Article 16: Equality of opportunities in matters of public appointments for all citizens.
    • Article 39(a): Provides that citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood.
    • Article 39(d): Equal pay for equal work for both men and women.
    • Article 42: The state to make provision for ensuring first and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.

Way forward:

  • There is a positive relationship between education and woman empowerment. Another important aspect in this regard is that, in these societies the issue of women empowerment has been facing certain serious challenges, which are outcome of some certain evil norms and attitudes such as child labour, child marriage, illiteracy, superstition, partial attitude of the parents, female feticides, etc. and in such a situation women empowerment is an urgent necessity.
  • In order to promote women's empowerment, it is necessary to create an environment that will allow women to participate in educational programs and share the benefits. The educational and other policies for women empowerment should be implemented in reality for empowering women in the world.
  • Women’s own education level, husbands’ education level and women’s own earnings appear to be crucial enablers to reach the goal of gender equality.
  • Policies designed to increase job opportunities for women need to be complemented by raising the educational attainment of both men and women for the country to achieve gender equality.

Source: Live-Mint

Mains Question:

Q. “Income and education must move hand in hand to empower women to tackle challenges like restrictive gender norms and practice”. Discuss.