By Nidhi Kinhal
In a country where women are still required to move to their husband’s place of residence post marriage, there is still some stigma when a woman moves for work. A new IndiaSpend analysis of census data however, shows that women migrating for work and education between 2001 and 2011 grew faster than men who moved for the same reasons.
While the number of women migrating for work grew by 101 percent, the rate was only 48.7 percent for men, during this period. The number of women who said that they were moving for business increased by 153 percent, while for men, the rate was 35 percent.
Despite this, marriage remains the leading reason for women’s migration. Priya Deshingkar and Shaheen Akhtar of Overseas Development Institute, in a UNDP paper in April 2009, argued, “Women’s migration is not adequately captured because surveys ask for only one reason for migration to be stated. This is usually stated as marriage and the secondary reason, that is finding work at the destination, may not be mentioned.” That is, women stay in the workforce even if their original reason for migration was marriage. For households below the poverty line, some reports and studies have shown that migration for work usually results in relief from poverty, despite India’s metropolitan cities giving them a hard time.
There are questions to be asked. The obligation for women to move after marriage stems from patriarchal norms of the wife ‘belonging’ to the husband, and although it is great that women are working after marriage, there has also been a decrease in the overall percentage of women in the workforce, as of 2016, due to various reasons. Only data comparisons with women who migrate for marriage and then, leave the workforce, and information on whether more women feel empowered by work, or are affected massively by financial or other pressures can give us a more complete picture. According to a January 2017 housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry report, “many of the women who migrate for marriage do join the labour force.”
The significant growth in women moving for work and education, independent of marriage is a pleasant leap; hopefully, it means that there are tangible improvements in the level of education, access to opportunities and better income, and stigma-free independence for women.