India busy building assets, family takes backseat

Rashi Aditi Ghosh /Zee Research Group

For a Delhi-based 28-year-old software engineer, living in a joint family was the only concern when she got married recently. She holds a well-paid job and wanted to live in a separate house “to avoid unnecessary expenses”.

This young professional is just one example and perhaps reflects a growing trend among new age urban Indian women. The era of joint families is over. More Indians now prefer to live a life of luxury and privacy over shared happiness of joint families.

Reinforcing the trend, the Census report on Housing, Household Amenities and Assets reveals that now 25 per cent of Indian households are composed of one to four members while the households having five or more members is just 18 per cent.

While on one hand the average size of the household is decreasing, on the other more households are spending on building and availing personal assets. Now 86.6 per cent of households own homes as against 86.3 percent in 1991. Not only homes, there has been an apparent rise in the possession of other basic assets and amenities. About 47 per cent households now have television, nine per cent households have computer/laptops and 59 per cent households have mobile phones.

Abheek Barua, Chief Economist with HDFC Bank, says, “With the rising capital income people now believe in investments through building assets.”

Bringing out the psychological side of the trend, Sameer Malhotra, head of Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences at Max Hospital, says, “Growing consumerism and depiction of material possessions as prestige symbols are quite responsible (for the trend). Insecurities in mind and lack of adequate social and emotional support as well as peer pressures can also be the underlying reasons.”

The Census also shows that 70 per cent of households have only one married couple while just 0.2 per cent households have more than five couples.

“As joint families are now splitting to nuclear families people do not need to spend more on family expenses so they divert their money in availing other luxuries of life,” adds Barua.

“State security with respect to job opportunities and quality healthcare can also help in reducing distress. The definition of success is changing toward material possessions,” stresses Dr Malhotra.

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