When Work Intersects Family: A Qualitative Exploration of the Experiences of Dual Earner Couples in India

By Kalliath, Parveen; Kalliath, Thomas et al. | South Asian Journal of Management, January-March 2011 | Go to article overview

When Work Intersects Family: A Qualitative Exploration of the Experiences of Dual Earner Couples in India


Kalliath, Parveen, Kalliath, Thomas, Singh, Varsha, South Asian Journal of Management


Achieving good balance between work and family commitments is a growing concern for contemporary employees and organizations with mounting evidence linking work-family conflict to reduced health and well-being. As India continues to grow as a global economic power, issues concerning work-family conflict become particularly important. Extant research in this field has occurred primarily in western countries using quantitative methods and individual data. The objective of the present study is to investigate work-family conflict and coping experiences of a sample of employees and their partners, with the main participant belonging to one of the three occupational groups: IT, public service and social welfare service. Three main themes emerged: (a) widespread experience of work-family conflict; (b) religious coping as a mechanism for dealing with work-related stress; and (c) colleague and family support as mechanisms for coping. We discuss the implications of the findings for organizations, and specify some strategies for dealing with work-family conflict at individual, family and community levels.

INTRODUCTION

The last two decades have witnessed a prolific increase in research investigating work-family conflict. Substantial concerns have been expressed by social commentators and researchers over the extent to which work and family roles have become increasingly intertwined (Grzywacz and Marks, 2000; Frone, 2003; and O'Driscoll et al, 2004). Many possible reasons for this escalation in work-family conflict have been posited including more dual career couples, greater participation of women in the workforce, changing conditions of employment, family-tole expectations, and increasing pervasiveness of work in people's lives (Poelmans, 2001; Jones et al, 2006; and Kossek and Distelberg, 2009). These reasons have increased the likelihood that employees of both genders have substantial household responsibilities in addition to their work responsibilities (Allen et al, 2000). Brady (2002) noted that technological revolution which was supposed to free people from the office has in practice eroded the boundaries between work and leisure, placing greater expectation on individuals to work anytime, anywhere. The resulting imbalance between work and family has consequences for the individual, family, organizations and the society at large.

Work-family research by far has been carried out in the western world with little emphasis on developing countries like India. In India, the issue of work-family conflict can be even more concerning. India has undergone substantial economic growth since its independence in 1947. The changing economic and social demographics over the years have witnessed growing numbers of dual earner families and more women entering the workforce. According to the Industrial Relations (2005) statistics, although the workforce participation of Indian women has always been lower than men, there has been a significant increase in the participation rate of women in the workforce from 19.7% in 1981 to 26.7% in 2001. In March 2004, women constituted 19% of the total workforce in India. While the majority of women work in rural areas, during the period 2004-2005, the employment of women increased by 1.1% in the public sector by 2.5% in the private sector totaling to 49.34 lakh employed women.

Despite the increasing workforce participation of women, India remains largely a hierarchical male -dominated society. The cultural traditions and family role -structures have not changed significantly and women on average still bear responsibilities for daily household chores, such as cooking, shopping, providing care for children and aged family members (Aziz, 2004). Whilst it can be argued that, the increasing participation of women in the workforce is a promising development, juggling work and family lives can become burdensome if meaningful supports are not available to them for managing their domestic unpaid responsibilities alongside paid work (Noor, 2004; and Voydanoff, 2005). …

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