Large majorities among those with a college degree (80%) and those with less education (88%) agree with the notion that wives must always obey their husbands
Indians are among the most likely to say the husband should provide for the family, while the wife focuses on the home
India has one of the lowest female labour force participation rates in the world (21 per cent versus 53 per cent global median), according to 2019 United Nations (UN) data. India’s male labour force participation rate is much higher (76 per cent), and its within-country discrepancy contributes to India’s low ranking on the UN Gender Inequality Index (123 out of 162 ranked countries). The latest Pew Research Centre survey on gender dynamics in the home and the economy believes one reason for this could be attitudes to women’s work when jobs are scarce.
The survey of nearly 30,000 adults throughout India says that despite broadly aligning with global public opinion on equal rights for women, Indians tend to be more conservative than people in most other countries surveyed when it comes to gender dynamics in the economy.
For instance, UN data from the Global Attitudes Survey (2019) across 61 countries, surveyed from 2013 to 2019, suggests a median of 17 per cent completely agree with the statement: “When jobs are scarce, men should have more rights to a job than women.”
But roughly three times as many Indians say the same (55 per cent). In fact, only one surveyed country — Tunisia (64 per cent) — has a higher share who completely agree with the notion that men should have greater rights to jobs in times of high unemployment.
On this measure, Indians are substantially more traditional than people from North America (4 per cent median), Western Europe (7 per cent), Central and Eastern Europe (14 per cent), and Latin America (20 per cent).
The 2019 Global Attitudes survey also asked a question about gender roles that was not on the 2019-2020 Pew India survey: “Which kind of marriage is more satisfying, one where the husband provides for the family and the wife takes care of the house and children, or one where the husband and wife both have jobs and together take care of the house and children?”
Indians are among the most likely to say the husband should provide for the family, while the wife focuses on the home: Four in ten Indians prefer this traditional family dynamic, compared with a global median of 23 per cent.
Across a variety of measures, Indian men are more likely than women — but only slightly — to take a traditional view of gender roles. For instance, 82 per cent of men say that when there are few jobs, men should have more rights to jobs, compared with 77 per cent of women who share this perspective.
Similarly, older Indians (aged 35 and older) are marginally more likely than younger adults to hold traditional views on gender roles. While 45 per cent of Indians aged 35 and older say that men in a family should be primarily responsible for earning money, 42 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 agree.
Somewhat surprisingly, college education makes only a small difference in attitudes to traditional roles of women. For instance, large majorities among those with a college degree (80 per cent) and those with less education (88 per cent) agree with the notion that wives must always obey their husbands.