New Delhi, 1 September 2014: A recent news on ‘double income, no kids’ (DINKs) has attracted nationwide attention. Interestingly, the typically hyped phenomenon of ‘double-income’ young couples (presumably because they are yet to have kids, or alternatively choosing not to have them), particularly in urban areas is not supported by the Census data. In fact, there seems to be no/insignificant difference between rural–urban households in terms of their composition. Moreover, there are 42 per cent rural families as compared to just 22 per cent families in urban India with two-members, both of whom are working. Poverty has been held responsible for such preponderance of rural families in the DINKs category. This is not as simple or straightforward as it seems at the outset. There are other contributing factors.
That more rural women are workers than urban is well-established observation. However, the Census data on which the above observations are based refer to crude definition of workers, that is, it refers to all ages including children and aged cohorts of population. More girls, adolescent and women in urban areas go to educational institutes. More importantly, the boundary between ‘work’ and ‘non-work’ is rigidly defined in urban context whereas in rural areas essentially characterised by workers in agriculture, such a boundary is fluid. Much of such work such as sorting, shifting, conserving seeds/produce are carried out within the bounds of domestic spaces. Livestock rearing, selling of milk etc. are other such activities. In addition, cityward male-selective migration has meant that more and more women replace them in the agricultural realm.
(Photo courtesy: http://www.familybusinessunit.com/)
It seems that the social network of support in urban areas lags behind that available in rural areas. If an earlier NSS Report (1999-2000) on the reasons ‘why women were engaged in domestic duties and not in the formal labour market’ is any indication, about 55 per cent of urban women in contrast to 49 per cent of rural women had reported that they were required to spend most of their days in domestic duties. The reason being that there was no other household member to carry out the domestic duties!One can argue that these women can work at home as self-employed. However, for majority of urban women, home-based work is not an option because of a) their educational attainments and b) home-based work is usually pitched at a lower ends of occupational/financial hierarchy. There is also relative space-crunch for holding businesses at home in urban spaces as compared to rural context. Incidentally, when percentage of non-agricultural and other Enterprise Sector Workers (15 – 59 Years) for the year 2011-12 are looked into, about 32 per cent of urban women workers are home-based whereas the corresponding percentage for rural women is 38, i.e. more rural women work from home vis-à-vis their urban counterparts!
Prof. Saraswati Raju, Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. firstname.lastname@example.org