Mumbai: In the five years of the Narendra Modi government, India has witnessed near-universal electrification, though the quality of power supply remains sub-standard.

Addressing the supply challenge as demand for electricity rapidly increases will be key not only for India’s economic growth but also in empowering women in rural areas, according to a new World Bank study.

In the study, Hussain Samad and Fan Zhang analyse data from the 2011-12 India Human Development Survey, covering more than 40,000 households and 200,000 individuals, and find that access to electricity is associated with significant improvement in women empowerment.

The authors measure empowerment through an index that captures women’s decision-making ability, mobility, financial autonomy, reproductive freedom and social participation.

They find that this index increases by as much as 11 percentage points with improved access to electricity.

Women’s bargaining power, primary involving her own well-being such as travelling alone, having a bank account and participating in social groups, increases by 7-10 percentage points because of electrification, find the authors.

Access to electricity makes women more empowered as it is associated with greater job participation, education, health and exposure to electronic media, all of which are enabling factors for improved autonomy and social participation among women.

The authors argue that women’s labour force participation and education are the most important determinants of a woman’s intra-household bargaining power.

Access to electricity is associated with an improvement in all five indicators. However, the magnitude of improvement is smaller for women’s decision-making ability and reproductive freedom. These improvements are driven through media exposure provided by better electricity access.

READ | Electrification and Women’s Empowerment

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