Financial management in the household is related to gender issues.
As a principle investigator of a research project on mining and equitable employment by women in two Mekong countries (Lao PDR and Thailand), I spent months in both countries and had learnt various aspects of women and financial management issues.
Although the project aims to investigate consequences of international mining industry on gender, we learn various interesting issues on how women in both countries manage their household finances.
In general, women may not earn as much as men in extractive industry, due to physical and mental limitations from the industry and/or themselves. However, we learn that men from both countries tend to allow their wives to manage the household finances. The interviews with 75 Lao men and women and 54 Thais show some following interesting points:
1) – Women comprehend financial focus better than men: Most women whom we interviewed can easily convey their financial ideas. Most of them are clear about short and long terms expenditures. They always plan for expenditures on food, health and well-being, and education for kids. They know how and what to prioritize when it comes to finance for family.
2) – Women network better than men: I do not generalize this point to the entire population. In the rural communities in Laos and Thailand where we located this research project, we learn that women understand the nature of their community and can connect with other men and women better than their male counterparts. Most networks started informally and subsequently transformed into entrepreneurial culture. In Laos, for example, the focus on food supply chain for the mining corporations and community is a great example of how women can earn extra incomes and become community leaders by networking among each others.
3) – Women’s approaches in finance are different from men: When we examine several microfinance ideas and actions in both communities, we realize that women tend to focus on long-term strategies than their male family members. Almost all women from this study tend to focus on income generation activities that can involve all family and community members, whilst men tend to focus on individual or self-development. For instance, in Thailand, men prefer to spend money on their own farm, land development, and entertainment (including alcohol and gambling), women prefer to spend money on investment for family, group education and training, and food for the family.
4) –Bread wining women involve directly in most family decision-making: Along with earning more, women are also taking control of their family’s finances.They focus on paying bills, voice their opinion on purchasing decision making for family. It is true that women who out-earn their husbands are more likely to involve in all aspects of family decision-making such as education for kids, investment, saving, and purchasing of land or car. The joint decision-making process among men and women can lead to optimal results among family members.
The major obstacles in involving women in the family financial decision making in the mining community include traditional male-dominated ideology in the community, stigmatization of women as passive and incompetent, and myths about women’s ability to manage resources. These points lead to the conclusion that it is important to include women in the management of household finances.
The joint decisions about managing personal finance is to ensure that both men and women take a personal responsibility at every stage of money management and that communication is key to successful planning now and the future.
By Nattavud Pimpa (She is an associate professor in international business at RMIT University, Australia.)
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