“Joint Families”, a word common to hear among Indian societies. A Large number of people living under the same roof for generation, consisting of different generations, with enormous age gaps and family sizes. Where East Asian communities such as the Japanese, Korean or Thai have accepted the convenience of and dissolved themselves into smaller fragments of nuclear families, Indian men, as well as their parents, are still reluctant to take this step. Metropolitan Indian cities such as Dehli NCR, Mumbai or Bangaluru might have transitioned into this phase a little quicker than the other second and third-tier cities, joint families have yet not absolutely vanished and still thrive happily in those cities.
Is the Indian societal and family unity that stops men from stepping out of their houses, or is it the family income that keeps them in their own cocoons? It can be a combination of both! East Asian saw a rapid growth in their economy in the early 1900s and therefore, people sought their newfound independence by starting to live their lives the way they wanted to, by bearing their own expenses and starting to create and take responsibilities of their new families. The fact that this transition was early for the East Asian countries, they have become accustomed to the new lifestyle from generations. This was a more relatable comparison since most of the Asian communities at a macroscopic level, have similar family values and economic statures. But, if one takes a glance at the Western or European society, they have nuclear family concepts, or rather independent living lifestyle since a very long period.
Well, it might be a little extravagant for Indians to be compared to the Western world in terms of our cultural value or family unity, East Asian communities have accepted this lifestyle, not just for their convenience, but for the sake of their productivity and independence. Whereas, Indian family values have somewhere curbed the productivity of the young generation, the reason being – lack of creative independence. At the same time, if the Indian tradition of “Joint Families” is looked from a holistic perspective, it seems like a united culture that insists the values of strong bonds and long-lasting ties that can help an individual overcome contemporary mental issues like loneliness, depression or peer-pressure.
Yet, if just a shallow economic growth is one of the major driving forces of the persistence of Joint families, then one can argue that India has actually seen good economic growth in the 1980s mainly due to growth of consumer business sectors and exports, but this has not helped much in the creation of smaller families. So do we still have to stick to the family value system for this? Not much actually. It is actually the low family income rate and heavily disguised unemployment status in middle-class Indian Families, and fear or leaving the comfort zone or not finding a suitable income source outside of their family businesses for the high-income earning business families.
This acts as a dual-factor force for insisting the young men to fear the challenges to living independently. Most of the middle-class sector is comprised of families that are either working class or small business owners, and therefore hope of the small business expansion as well as helping the breadwinners provide for the large number of dependents, small business operating families often decide to stay together. At the same time, in case of the working-class families, the low-income rates act as the biggest factor of avoidance in terms of finding or renting a new space and spending on its additional costs. Also, in some cases this acts as curtain to cover the disguised unemployment status of any of the non-earning member of the house but only poses to earn through odd or non-permanent jobs.
An aspect that seems a little odd here is related to the Bank Loans. This sounds different from the conventional reasons discussed above, but a very important factor that stops the young working class men from finding and living in a house of their dreams. Well, the youth is often lured to borrow housing loans and its products from promising banks to buy their own houses, which otherwise seem unaffordable, but the tedious procedures and heavy collateral requirements have proved this process to be slightly non-preferable. It so appears that loans have become an important source of fund-raising for the rich and mighty.
A question that needs to be reflected upon.
Apart from that, going back to societal roots, one can also take this in another direction and that is – Young working women. This again puts forward another argument; Involvement of the Female members in household monetary contribution. Well, again one has to root into the values of our society and culture of a patriarchal community where women are not actually expected to earn for the family. But, when it comes to dire situations such as extremely low family income or debt stricken cycle, they are forced to step out and accept a job that matches their caliber. On this note, one can opine that poor employment policies for women (especially in smaller towns and third tier cities), their safety at work is often compromised which in turn forces them to stop their work and give upon their independence, contributing to a deteriorating family condition in terms of their average income. This ultimately forces them to be dependent on their husbands, who in turn is dependent on his parents, followed by his brothers (if so), culminating towards a formation of a large joint family.
At the same time, one can notice the joint family system among the high earning business houses and industrial families as well. These families have their renowned business empires and goodwill that they have to keep intact as their legacy. Therefore, the men in such houses have been brought up with certain instructions and encouragement to become a part of their family business, which is why they become reclusive to other opportunities, even if it means to forgo their independence.
Therefore, one can conclude four major factors contributing towards the strong prevalence of the so-called joint families in India and why Indian men choose to live with their families, which are; Traditional values, low Family income, fear of losing their comfort zones, low female employment rate and most importantly Corruption. Well, as far as family values are concerned, they carry emotions and certain perks as well as the other reason being low family income, a practical way of saving money on rents and other additional expenses, but loss of comfort zone for the privileged men does not form a sensible argument as it can at times curb productivity and create unnecessary influences, causing a parasitic mentality.
And towards the end, female unemployment and corruption rates must definitely be checked upon by becoming more conscious about this society and its existence in the 21st century, therefore making the work environment more female-friendly and efficiently productive as a whole.