MGNREGA improves school enrolment, education
A recent statistical study by Indian researchers suggest that the MNREGA program in rural Andhra Pradesh might be having a positive effect on school enrolment and grades by improving the bargaining power of women within their household, as a consequence of earning wages in the rural job security program. The study is based on data from rural households in 5 districts in Andhra Pradesh and comprised of 3006 children, comparing a range of individual and household statistics from 2007 and 2009-10. The data is from the Young Lives program - a 15-year study of childhood poverty in Ethiopia, India, Vietnam and Peru, which follows the lives of 3,000 children in each country. (See links below)
Unlike the private rural labour market, under MNREGA equal wage rates apply to women and men. Further, the program requires one-third of the beneficiaries to be women, thus emphasizing female employment. The study tried to understand whether a rise in the mother's share of parental NREGA workdays increased the school attendance and grade attainment of her children, particularly girls. The sample was restricted to children in the age group of 5-14 years in 2007, the school-going age group.
The study found that in this period the average number of days women worked in the NREGA went up by five times. The time spent in school by children in the reference period (a typical day in the previous week) went up from 5.8 hours in 2007 to almost 7 hours in 2009-10. This increase in time spent in school was largely reflective of more regular school attendance. Further, more time in school translated into better educational attainment. The study finds that this effect is largely on children in the poorest wealth group, and for girls in the household.
Could this increase in school attendance be a result of mandatory crèche facilities at MNREGA work sites freeing up children from having to take care of their younger siblings? The researchers argue this is unlikely since in their sample only 1 per cent of households reported using on-site child-care facilities in 2007, while more than 80 per cent of households reported absence of child-care facilities at the last work site in 2009-10.
The researchers argue that the effects are due to the increased bargaining power of mothers in household decision-making, namely greater participation of mothers in the labour market increases the say and control that such women have concerning important decisions being made within the household.
In more qualitative interviews done outside the survey, Young Lives households reported that accessing the scheme had positive effects on the education of their children - for example, parents were better able to purchase books and clothes - investments in a critical period of a child's life, which could have wider societal returns.
Anecdotal evidence gathered elsewhere from individual households (http://nrega.nic.in/circular/rozgar_sutra.pdf) also suggests impacts of NREGA wages on parental ability to sustain their children's school education.
For full study and more reports please click on the links below:
Social Protection and Poverty Reduction: Increasing the benefits of MGNREGS for children, India Policy Brief 2, May, 2013, Young Lives, Funded by UK-Aid and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
A scheme that made a difference to their lives-T Ramakrishnan, The Hindu, 11 February, 2013, http://www.im4change.org/success-stories/a-scheme-that-mad