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Know why women empowerment in India could still be a distant dream

Only a fifth of women who are working, decide on their own where to spend their earnings

BS Reporter 

women at work, working women

Only a fifth of women who are working, decide on their own where to spend their earnings, finds the latest round of the Family Health Survey. A staggering sixty-one per cent of say that such decisions are made jointly, while 17 per cent say that it's mostly the husband who makes such decisions. This situation appears to be unchanged over the past decade.

On the other hand, the survey finds that roughly two-thirds of women now participate in major household decisions such as women’s health care, major household purchases and visits to their friends and family. In fact women's participation rate has seen a marked improvement over the past decade.

In decisions regarding the major household purchase, the percentage of women involved has increased from 53 per cent in 2005-06 to 73 per cent in 2015-16. In the case of own health care, it has increased from 62 per cent to 75 per cent, while in the case of visits to friends and family, it has increased to 75 per cent, from 61 per cent earlier.

Perhaps, this is an outcome of rising incomes of women. The survey finds that the percentage of who earn almost as much as their husbands more than doubling from 20 per cent in 2005-06 to 42 per cent in 2015-16.

There has also been a marked improvement in a women’s freedom to move around. According to the survey, in 2005-06 only a third of women in the age group of 15-49 were allowed to go alone to the market, health facility and to places outside the village. By comparison, in 2015-16, the same is estimated at 41 per cent.

But attitudes towards wife beating have not changed much since 2005-06, nor has there been a change in the percentage of women who say that women can refuse sex to their husband.

On the heath side, there has been a marked decline in the use of tobacco across both sexes according to the latest round of the NFHS.

While 10.8 per cent of women in the age group of 15-49 used to use tobacco in 2005-06, this has dropped to 6.8 per cent in 2015-16. Interestingly, in urban areas it is lower at 4.4 per cent, while in rural areas it is higher at 8.1 per cent. For men, the comparable estimates are 57 per cent in 2005-06 and 44.5 per cent in 2015-16.

In the case of alcohol, the decline is of a much lower magnitude. The percentage of women consuming alcohol has declined from 2.2 per cent in 2005-06 to 1.2 per cent in 2015-16, while for men the comparable estimates are 31.9 per cent and 29.2 per cent.

First Published: Tue, January 16 2018. 12:46 IST