A global study titled 'Global Trends in Intra-Household Gender Inequality' spearheaded by two researchers from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bengaluru stated that glaring disparity still exists among all heterosexual couples who live around the world. Published in July 2021, Deepak Malghan and Hema Swaminathan from the institute's Centre for Public Policy made inferences from the public data available from 45 countries, across more than four decades.
Households As The 'Black Box'
Describing our households as the 'black box', the researchers aimed to show the bigger picture inside. "The general assumption is that within a household, incomes are pooled and equally distributed. But the household is often a place of great inequality, and we wanted to unpack that," quoted the BBC. The data was collated from 2.85 million households around the world that consisted of heterosexual couples among the age group 18 to 65 years. This was from the year 1973 to 2016 and was carried out by a non-profit entity called 'Luxembourg Income Study.'
How The World Fared?
Looking at the inferences, the results paint a rather bleak picture. The study looked at not just the countries with higher rates of gender inequality, but even those where such instances are at an all time low. Ranking the countries according to the overall and intra-household inequalities, the researchers found that the man earned more than his wife in every country, irrespective of how developed it was.
"The most recent wave of data suggests that when both members of the couple are employed, there is not a single country, not even in the richest or most developed parts, where wives earn as much as their husbands," said Professor Malghan. In fact, the women's share in the total income of the household was less than 50 per cent globally.
It is a proven fact that India has a long way to go when it comes to ensuring gender equality. However, the results in the Nordic countries shocked everyone as the disparity was present there as well, despite minimal instances of gender inequality there.
While this is abysmal, the only good thing about the study is that this inequality has actually declined by 20 per cent in the four decades of which the data was analysed. The decrease in the pay gap was possible due to the increased women's participation in labour force around the world, where they are given equal pay for the work they do.
Pros And Cons
We have come a long way from the archaic ideologies where women were expected to not contribute in the household income. However, a lot has to be done to ensure equal opportunities that leads to equal rewards. Not only does an earning woman bring about balance in the family, but it is also extremely beneficial for the global economy. Professor Swaminathan added, "The wife's contribution as a housewife is invisible, while cash is visible. So, a wife earning a salary, bringing in hard cash into the family enjoys a certain status. It enhances her agency and gives her a voice within her household."
The ongoing COVID pandemic and its effects on women's incomes is just going to make things worse. In fact, the crisis cost women around the world at least $800 billion in lost income in 2020, equivalent to more than the combined GDP of 98 countries, according to Oxfam.
The glaring inequality here will not be good for the longer run. Low income can result in long-term financial security, that can have a massive impact on the pension as it is connected to our earnings.
At the end of the day, the change in mentality is what is necessary. Several governments talk of women empowerment. Companies even make 'policies' to hire women. The real question is, how are these being implemented? Are enough women being hired and given the opportunity they deserve? Not only that, her role at home cannot be ignored as well. Therefore, are employers ready to face the music, instead of not taking in any woman because of her 'added' responsibilities. It is her ability to multitask that makes her stand out from the rest. This is something the countries have to look into in order to break the glass ceiling.