The story of financial dependency among India's women starts in the social ethos before manifesting in old age.
Indian women tend to choose less financially-rewarding careers. Even when women pursue lucrative jobs, family puts their work life on a different growth trajectory than men.
According to a survey conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation, 36 percent of India's college-educated women voluntarily quit their jobs for a period of time for childcare or work-life balance purposes. As many as 73 percent take a "scenic route," opting for part-time work, flexible work or a position with fewer responsibilities, compared with 58 percent in the U.S. and 36 percent in Japan.
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When women do have the opportunity to make financial decisions, they prioritize their children's education or family essentials like health expenses or house loans. "Women will usually compromise their long-term security for the well-being of their children, even if they are adults," SecureNow's Mehta said.
Longevity worsens the issue, with Indian women tending to live more than three years longer than men according to United Nations life expectancy forecasts. Widowhood is as high as 59 percent among elderly women compared with 36 percent for elderly men, according to the UNPF report. In the event that an elderly woman becomes a widow, the financial burden increases.
"In case of death of the male member, the financial situation of the wife is a real mess. In rural areas, it's even worse," said Surya Bhatia, managing partner of Asset Managers, a private wealth management company based in New Delhi.
Widowed women are also less likely to be able to afford private treatment for myriad health issues that they're more prone to including arthritis, hypertension and osteoporosis. Instead, they have to rely on unpaid or cheap sources of medical aid, which often proves inadequate.