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Access to Water, Time Allocation and Income in Rural India

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Name of the Asset | Access to Water, Time Allocation and Income in Rural India
Type of Asset | Working Paper
Date | September 2013



Women typically have less time for economically productive work than men, as they spend more time doing household work and accessing water sources. This paper provides a consistent link between political reservations for women and other groups (made by the Indian government to combat representational inequality in politics), public provision of water by local governments, the resulting changes in intra-household time allocations, and the household and individual income of both men and women. 

The study used the Indian Additional Rural Incomes Survey (ARIS)/Rural Economic & Demographic Survey (REDS) datasets to examine the impact of political reservations on: (i) time spent in collecting water, (ii) salaried employment, (iii) productive work like self-employment and own cultivation, (iv) participation in non-farm work, and (v) household welfare.

The study found that investments made to improve the supply and management of water reduces the time spent by both men and women fetching water. This, in turn leads to the reallocation of time – saved from fetching water – and increased income. Political reservations in the local government for vulnerable groups, such as women, lead to higher local government investments in improving the supply and management of water. Political reservations have been shown to increase the time spent by women in productive work, especially in self-employment in farm and non-farm activities that positively impact household incomes. Not least, the study showed that political reservations lead to higher wages for women in the rural non-farm labor market, suggesting that reservations help reduce discrimination against women in labor markets.

  • Hans Binswanger-Mkhize (Adjunct Professor at the School of Economics and Management, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China and Extraordinary Professor at the Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa)
  • Sharmistha Nag (Adjunct Faculty at University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)
  • Hari K. Nagarajan (Senior Fellow at National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), New Delhi, India, and later, Professor and RBI Chair in Rural Economics, Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA), Anand, India)
Country and/or Region | India
Name of the Program | Global Research Project 'Varieties of Governance: Effective Public Service Delivery'
Funder(s) |  Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Department for International Development (DFID), UK, the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Inter‐American Development Bank (IDB), International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Open Society Institute (OSI), The Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) and the World Bank.
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