State has more woman-headed households, reveals census

The newly released census-2011 data has revealed that Karnataka has more number of female-headed households compared to the all-India average indicating that the State is slowly moving out of patriarchal system of society.

Karnataka has 19.65 lakh female-headed households (FHH) - that is - the head of the family in these households are women. Percentage wise, 14.91 per cent of households in the State are headed by women compared to the all India average of 10.9. In 2001 (the previous census) 13.9 per cent of the households were headed by women in Karnataka, while the national average stood at 10.4.

The ‘head of the household’ data is compiled by census enumerators based on the response to the question on who bears the primary responsibility for the maintenance of the household. Demographers point that FHH statistics provide a “gender dimension” to the census data reflecting, among others, the economic condition of women, especially widows, in the country.

 “Increase in the number of female-headed households indicates that there is a weakening of the patriarchal social system which is desirable”, says K S James, Professor and Head, Population Research Centre at the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC).

But the real story lies in another economic dimension that emerges from the data, especially from information on the assets available in FHH.

It is observed that the economic condition of  FHH is relatively poorer when compared to all households. For instance in Karnataka, 60 per cent of all households have television sets but in FHH it is 49 per cent. As much as 56.5 per cent of all households in the State have cellphones but in FHH  it is 47.68 per cent.  While 25.6 per cent of all households have scooter or motorcycle, it is only 14.09 per cent in FHH.

Prof James, while explaining the reasons for the disparity, says as the life expectancy of women is more compared to men, there is a natural increase in the number of widows, which in turn adds on the number of FHH.

“The economic disparity between all households and FHH is an indication that a lot more needs to be done to improve the financial condition of widows. This is especially true in case of widows who do not have wealth as families tend to leave them to fend for themselves,” Prof James says.

Twenty-five per cent of FHH in Karnataka have no assets like radio, television, computers, phone or vehicles, the census data reveal. The national average is 29 per cent.
Kerala tops the list with 23 per cent households having a woman as head. Neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have 20 per cent FHH.

Highlights

* Female-headed household (FHH) implies women bears the primary responsibility of maintaining these households
* It does not necessarily mean that women are the property owners of the households
* Karnataka has 19,65,022 female-headed households
* Census data has revealed that economic condition of  FHH is relatively poorer when compared to all
households. 

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