While urban women in India remain highly stressed out, as a study points out, their rural counterparts face many existential problems.
Sopan Correspondent/New Delhi
Indian women are in a hurry to catch up with time. Their earnings, especially of those in the cities, have doubled up, according to a recent study. However, another study says that stress is a collateral damage, making Indian women as the most stressed in the world. Thankfully, they still have smile on lips and hope in their eyes.
The rural women, meanwhile are not yet out of dangerous and often life threatening motherhood. Infant mortality is the highest of all other countries. So is the Maternal Mortality Rate, a few notches down though.
A recent study released by the Nielsen Company examined that the consumer and media habits of women in emerging and developed countries has found that women in India are the most stressed.
Nielsen's study was conducted from February to April of 2011 and polled almost 6,500 women throughout 21 developed and emerging countries including those in Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa, and North America.
The results of the polls showed that an astounding 87 per cent of Indian women claim feeling stressed most of the time, with an additional 82 per cent asserting they had insufficient time to relax.
"Women across the globe are achieving higher levels of education, joining the workforce in greater numbers and contributing more to the household income," said Susan Whiting, vice chair of Nielsen. They are also increasing their spending power, and with that they gain more control and influence over key household decisions.
As a result the women of today and tomorrow are powerful consumers and understanding their habits and attitudes is critically important for marketers and advertisers.
In India statistics have shown that women are more prolific users of social networking than men. Women talk 28 per cent more and send 14 per cent more texts than men every month, and also visit more Internet community sites than their male counterparts.
More than half of women in both developed and emerging countries say that computers, mobile phones and smart phones have changed their lives for the better.
The survey found that worldwide, women play multiple roles that contribute to their stress levels, but that the social infrastructure allowing them to navigate these roles differed between emerging and developed markets. As a result, women in emerging markets tended to be more stressed than women in the developed world, with women in India, Mexico and Nigeria feeling the most time-pressured.
Reinforcing the growing financial independence of women in India, a survey says the income level of urban Indian women has doubled in the last decade. This increase has also led to the average urban household income doubling, according to a study by market research firm IMRB.
The urban Indian woman who earned Rs 4,492 per month in 2001 was taking home as much as Rs 9,457 as of 2010. The rise in her income is directly reflected in the average monthly household income of urban India going up from Rs 8,242 to Rs 16,509 in 2010, says the IMRB survey.
While these figures appear impressive, they suggest that urban incomes have on average gone up significantly less than those of the average Indian over this decade. According to official data, India's per capita income rose from Rs 16,688 in 2000-01 to Rs 54,835 in 2010-11, a 228% rise. The IMRB figures suggest that urban incomes in the same period rose by 100% and incomes of urban women by 111%.
"We have aligned our strategy, communication and products to women. And with the growing aspirations and financial independence of women not only in urban India but in tier II and tier III cities, women are at the core of our business.
The woman today is buying for herself and for her family," said Kishore Biyani, founder, Future Group. The country's largest retailer, which runs stores like Pantaloon and Big Bazaar, has seen the contribution of women's wear to overall sales more than double from 22% when it started operations to 55% currently. What is significant in the survey is that with the woman's personal income doubling, she is increasingly outsourcing household work.
From 91% women saying they did household work themselves, the number has dropped to 71% in 2010, according to the survey. "With the average income of women and of urban households increasing over the years the propensity to spend has also gone up significantly. Although, there is a strong sense of deriving value for money out of all purchases made, the thought of putting all of the household income into savings is slowly diminishing," said Ashish Karnad, group business director, IMRB International.
Brand experts say the changes over the last decade where more of the buying power is moving into the hands of woman has led to her influence in purchases even in categories predominantly of male consumption. "There remain very few areas of consumption in which the female does not increasingly participate today. Most household purchase decisions are either joint or exclusively female. Like in the West, marketing approaches and brand experiences in India will increasingly need to be designed around these insights," said Tanya Dubash, executive director & president marketing, Godrej Industries.
And this trend is reflected in the survey which says while 34% of women participated in the actual buying process in 2003, by 2010 that number had gone up to 43%. "Is the recent explosion in male grooming only because of male consumers or is it also triggered by the subtle influence and desire of the female to have her man well groomed?" asked Dubash.
The survey, which interviewed 9,000 urban women above 25 years says as an impact of increasing financial independence, there has been a 33% jump in the number of women who have a savings bank account in the last decade. Also, from only 4% of women owning their own credit card back in 2001, there has been a 150% growth as 10% of women in 2010 possessed a credit card.
"With rising incomes and education there is a profound impact on consumption. The rates of growth of several discretionary categories are nothing short of dramatic as a result," says Gopal Vittal, executive director, home and personal care products, HUL, the country's largest consumer goods maker.
Given that one-third of the estimated 480 million jobs in the country are being performed by women, more than half of the advertising is targeted towards the homemaker.
In India, over 400,000 new-borns die within the first 24 hours of their birth every year, the highest anywhere in the world, says a study by an international non-government organisation, 'Save the Children'.
There has been an annual decline of four to five points in under-five mortality rate and a 17 per cent decline in the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) in the years of 2006-2009. Moreover, neo-natal mortality rate (number of infants die within a month), and a post neo-natal mortality (within 11 months) has declined by one point and two points respectively.
Still, one-third of all malnourished children live in India, 46 per cent of children under three are underweight in the country, and over two-thirds of infants die within the very first month of their birth.
Almost 90 per cent of these deaths occur due to easily preventable causes like pneumonia and diarrhoea and malnutrition. And this is after the Government has spent 20-23 thousand crore in total on the National Rural Health Mission.
Experts say it is unlikely for India to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing the under-five deaths by two-thirds by 2015.
The promise was made in 2000 along with other 188 states and governments. Even countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Peru and the Philippines are on track to meet MDG4, exploding the myth that the costs of reducing new born and child mortality are high.