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Median marriage age up: Census data

JNU professor says the trend will continue because of socio-economic changes in the country

New Census data released by the government on Monday shows that the median age at the time of marriage has increased across categories of people and genders, a trend that experts say will continue due to the socio-economic changes taking place in the country.

The data, released by the Registrar-General and Census Commissioner, show that the median age for men increased to 23.5 at the time of the 2011 Census, from 22.6 as per the 2001 figures. These numbers were 19.2 years and 18.2 years for women in the respective years.

‘Not in traditional set-up’

The reason for the upswing is the increasingly mobile and migratory nature of work in the country, experts say.

“A much larger number of people are mobile than they were before,” S.S. Jodhka, Professor of Sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, told The Hindu. “These workers are not in the traditional social set-up as they were. For example, look at Madhubani district in Bihar, which is only about six per cent urban. About 75 per cent of the households had a migrant worker. Even in the most backward areas, families are not fully rural.”

This migrant population has different priorities, says Professor Jodhka, which have an effect on the ages the people get married at.

“Migration changes the mindset,” he said. “The focus becomes to earn a livelihood, which makes people think of life differently. The absolute stability of a completely rural lifestyle has given way.”

However, migration is only part of the explanation since the increase in the age at the time of marriage was seen among marginal workers and non-workers as well. The median age for marginal workers increased from 21.8 to 22.5 for men and from 17.6 to 18.7 for women. For non-workers, the age at the time of marriage increased from 22.8 to 23.5 for men and from 18.5 to 19.4 for women.

Higher school enrolment

The other reason for the change could be higher levels of school enrolment, Professor Jodkha said.

“The change is happening because of the growing integration of the economy,” he said. “The second point is that school enrolments have been going up. School enrolment is about 90 per cent everywhere, across most castes. It is 80 per cent-plus for Dalits. People are sending their children to school, which also has an effect on the age of marriage.”

Prof. Jodkha said the trend was expected to continue in the future. “I would expect this to increase by two years in the next 10 years.”

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Printable version | May 21, 2020 12:59:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Median-marriage-age-up-Census-data/article14408348.ece

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