For urban India, family matters!

Updated: May 14, 2013, 23:32 PM IST

Rashi Aditi Ghosh/Zee Research Group

Are joint families back in vogue in urban India? That’s what at least the Census 2011 report “House listing and housing report” seems to suggest. In rural areas, in contrast, there is a seeming decline in dwellings with three married couples.

According to the report, the proportion of households with just a single married couple has declined in urban areas as compared to Census 2001 while the households with two married couples in urban India has registered an increase from 10.8 per cent in 2001 to 12.6 per cent in 2011. Likewise, the share of households with three married couples in urban India too has increased from 2.7 per cent in 2001 to 2.9 per cent in 2011.

The Census data clearly suggests a reversal of sociological trend. We have been told that industrialisation and urbanisation breaks traditional joint family structures and fragments it into nuclear families.

Ripan Sippy, a clinical psychologist from Delhi thinks that more and more working couples are falling back on traditional family structures to prevent alienation of their kids.

“Joint family system is getting popular amongst working couples in cities because it helps them avail better socialization and security for their children when they are out for work,” he stresses.

In rural areas, however, the trend is playing up in a different way. While there is a marginal increase in the share of households with two married couples, households with three married couples seem to be in decline. In numbers, the share of households with two married couples in rural India registered an increase from 14.6 percent in 2001 to 14.9 per cent in 2011. The share of three married couples registered a decline from 4 per cent in 2001 to 3.4 per cent in 2011.

The preference for joint families in urban areas has produced greater financial stability and scope for disposable income. Census data suggests that 93 per cent of households in urban India have access to all the specified assets culled in the report. The specified asserts selected in the census report are availability of bank accounts, ownership of house, radio/transistors, television, computer/laptop/, mobile/landline and ownership of vehicles (two and three wheelers).

Increased life expectancy and inflation have created a situation where joint families become an automatic option especially in the lower and middle rungs. Professor Pramod Kumar Sharma, department of Sociology at University of Raipur concurs.

“Multigenerational families are more likely now due to the increased life expectancy. Since it may be financially difficult for families to have an independent house or flat in cities, particularly in the middle and lower middle class, people are forced into living together.”

But, can a relationship based on vested interest sustain itself in the long run?

“Unfortunately, the working couples in urban India are interested in joint families concerning their own vested interests. They are least bothered about that fact that an elderly person who is already vulnerable needs care rather providing care and security to the children,” Sharma laments.