Microcredit and Women's Empowerment: Through the Lens of Time-Use Data from Rural India


  • Supriya Garikipati

    1. is a Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at the Management School, University of Liverpool, UK  (e-mail: S.Garikipati@liv.ac.uk). Her research examines the impact of public policy interventions in India with a focus on gender and poverty. She has worked on India's microcredit sector, its rural labour markets and on implications of India's economic liberalization. One of her current projects examines the interplay of colour, caste and class in modern India, especially its implications for the employment and marital markets.
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The author gratefully acknowledges financial support received from the Department for International Development (award number R7617) and the Newton Trust (award number INT 2.05[d]). The author also acknowledges the contribution of the field research team: Achari, Chandrasekhar, Lakshmamma, Narsimhulu, Lakshmi, Padma, Ravi, Rathish and Sridevi, and is grateful to the two anonymous referees for their insightful and constructive comments on the manuscript. She also thanks Marek Hudon, David Hulme, Uma Kembampathi, Mark Pitt, Gita Sen, Kunal Sen, Ariane Szafarz, Chris Udry and Jana Vyrestakova for comments on earlier versions of the paper.


This study examines the impact of microcredit on male and female time use, and draws on this analysis to explore the linkages between credit and women's empowerment. A study of time use can help understand these linkages, because if credit is intended to improve women's livelihoods, it can also be expected to influence the way women allocate their time. Its other advantages are that it does not suffer from much time lag and can be objectively measured. Using household survey data from rural India, the findings show that while microcredit has little impact on women's time use, it helps their husbands move away from wage work (associated with bad pay and low status) to self-employment. This is because women's loans are typically used to enhance male ownership of the household's productive assets. Further, it is found that it is only women who use loans in self-managed enterprises who are able to allocate more time to self-employment. If credit is intended to increase the value of women's work time, it follows that it is not access to loans but use of loans that matters. Ensuring women's control over loan-created assets must therefore be a critical policy objective.