The Value of Skills – Raising the Socioeconomic Status of Rural Women in India


  • Yvonne Jie Chen,

  • Namrata Chindarkar

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    • Assistant Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore ( Authors are alphabetically listed and contributed equally to the work. We thank Ms Reema Nanavaty and Ms Bharti Bhavsar from the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) for providing us with the opportunity to conduct this research. We thank Dennis Wichelns and seminar audiences at the ASSA 2015 meetings and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Research Seminar for their helpful comments. We thank Ms Shilpa Sathe for her excellent research assistance. We are grateful for the financial support offered by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the Institute of Water Policy at the National University of Singapore.


Using primary survey data collected in two sub-districts of Gujarat, India, on a unique programme that trains rural women with low human capital to repair village water handpumps, we examine the effect of skills training on their socioeconomic outcomes. We find that participating in the training programme significantly increases the probability of being employed outside household farms and women's contribution to household income in the lean season. Further, we find that programme participants spend more on female-favoured consumption goods and have a greater say in household spending decisions, though only from the women's perspective and not husbands’ or adult sons’ perspective. Consequently, providing skills training, even for part-time employment, can have positive effects on rural women's overall socioeconomic status.