Women will try to marry at above than the legal age, as this gives them exponentially higher payoff.
In the year 2015-16, 26.8 per cent women in India were married below the age of 18. (Bloomberg image)
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi steps up to raise the legal age of marriage for women, the move is expected to empower women socially and economically. Marrying at an age higher than the legal age is a dominant strategy for both men and women, SBI research said in its Ecowrap report released today. If the men and women both are under the legal age at the time of marriage, the payoff for women would be much lower than men. Men can still extract a positive payoff, as the men can always inherit ancestral land or properties, even without education, the report added.
However, if men are above the legal age, but women are still below it, men will continue to have a higher payoff, but women will continue to have a negative payoff as they are still not financially empowered. Hence, women will try to marry at above than the legal age, as this gives them exponentially higher payoff. While presenting the Union Budget 2020-21 in February 2020, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had proposed setting up a task force within six months that would review the minimum age of marriage for women, and study its implications on maternal health. It is to be noted that in the year 2015-16, 26.8 per cent women in India were married below the age of 18, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4).
The percentage increased to 31.5 per cent in rural areas, however, there was a significant fall in the number of women being married below the age of 18, from 47.4 per cent in 2005-06. On the other hand, the percentage of men married below the age of 21 was 24.4 per cent in rural and 20.3 per cent in all-India. The percentage of men marrying below the legal age also decreased in a decade, from 32.3 per cent in 2005-06. The SBI Ecowrap report indicated that in the states where the mean marriage age of women marriage is more than the national average, the percentage of females doing graduation and above are almost 5 percentage points higher than the other states. And more females doing graduation result in more women into the labour force.