What role do Indonesian women play in household decision making? An assessment of Amartya Sen’s cooperative-conflict model

Seminar Paper, 2012
22 Pages, Grade: 85




Literature Review


Description and Discussion of evidence




List of Figure

Figure 1 The overall possible utility frontier for Ibu Broto and her daughter, both of them having caring preferences

Figure 2 Different collusive arrangements a couple may bargain for

Figure 3 Gender gaps in Indonesia

Figure 4 Gender, Literacy, and Occupational Category

List of Table

Table 1 Variables related to married women’s autonomy

Table 2 Women’s autonomy in household decision making

List of Appendix

Appendix 1 A map of Indonesia showing the IFLS Provinces

Appendix 2 The country profile of Indonesia in the Global Gender Gap Report 2011


Indonesia offers an interesting case in order to study the bargaining power of women within households. The country of Indonesia was created due to the Dutch colonial rule and consists of over 13,000 islands offering a wide range of ethnic variety with the largest ethnic groups being Javanese (41%), Sundanese (15%) and Maudareses (4%); still leaving another 41% belonging to other ethnic groups (The PRS Group, 2011). Furthermore while Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, they only make up 86% of the total population; other larger religious groups are Catholics, Protestants, Hindus and Buddhists (The PRS Group, 2011). This variety will offer different possibilities in order to investigate the role Indonesian women play in household decision making. In this context Amartya Sen’s cooperative conflict model will be assessed.

Households produce Z-goods, which are household resources, in order to gain utility leading to economies of scale which means that larger households can achieve the same level of Z-goods as a smaller household while needing less time and money (Himmelweit & Santos, 2008). In order to produce Z-goods most efficiently members of the household specialise, whereas the husband usually specialises in paid work while the wife specialises in unpaid work; however the specialisation becomes critical in case of an end of the household due to death, divorce or separation and suddenly the household is lacking either the person taking care of the household or the one earning money (Himmelweit & Santos, 2008). Yet the specialisation may also not be equally distributed between different members of the household and the welfare of all members may depend on one or more member’s caring preferences (Himmelweit & Santos, 2008).

Therefore this report will first explore the influence of caring preferences among household members. Afterwards two unitary models, Samuelson’s approach considering a household as a black-box and Becker’s rotten kid approach will be described. These models do not consider household members who do not have equal bargaining power and therefore Sen’s cooperative conflict model will be investigated. In order to assess his model the book “Schleier Sarong Minirock” by Berninghausen, Kerstan and Soeprapto-Jansen (2009) will be used in order to getting an idea of how women live in Java, Bali, Lombok and Aceh and how norms of society influence their life. Rammohan and Johar (2009) generated data that will furthermore support society’s influence in regards to women’s bargaining power. Also education plays an important role as Gallaway and Bernasek (2004) found in their study on women’s illiteracy in Indonesia and the Global Gender Gap report will often some insight in equality between men and women in Indonesia.

Literature Review

In order to understand the problems women encounter within households it is necessary to first look at the matter of caring. On the one hand people can care about another person which means that utility of one person affects the utility Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten of another person which can be written as Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten while Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten; where self-regarding utility Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten of a person depends on the consumption of Z-goods, Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten etc that they consume themselves and therefore the utility function Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten includes self-regarding utiltiy Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten and another person’s utility Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten (Himmelweit & Santos, 2010). Ibu[1] Mati worked hard not only to give her children enough food but also to provide them with better education which will in turn guarantee her support in old age (Berninghausen, Kerstan & Soeprapto-Jansen, 2009). Therefore her children’s increased utility Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten will eventually also increase her utility Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten (figure 1).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1 The overall possible utility frontier for Ibu Broto and her daughter, both of them having caring preferences (Adjusted from Himmelweit & Santos, 2010, p. 159)

On the other hand people care for another person which means that a person that cannot function unaided is looked after (Himmelweit & Santos, 2010). For example when Ibu Mati cooks rice for her children who would otherwise not get anything to eat. Women often have a lower education or worse paid jobs and therefore lower opportunity cost that reinforces the social norm that women should be the ones doing unpaid work which Becker explains in his analysis of the benefits of specialisation that women have a comparative advantag in unpaid work and therefore the only efficient solution is that men specialise in paid work while the woman does all the unpaid work and also helps out with paid work (Himmelweit & Santos, 2010; Himmelweit & Stone, 2010). Ibu Luh from Bali finds herself in such a position, she gets up at 5 a.m. in order to cook rice for her children and does all the work within the house herself and then she has to work for 10 to 12 hours while her husband gets to sleep until 8 a.m and does not help with housework at all (Berninghausen, Kerstan, & Seoprapto-Jansen, 2009).

Paul Samuelson suggests that a household can be considered as a black box, one single individual disregarding the actual different interests in a household, if all members have similar caring preferences (Himmelweit & Santos, 2010). Samuelson (1956, pp.9-10 ) argues that any one famliy member is influenced in regards of his tastes and marginal rates of substitution “by the goods that other members consume”. Therefore a consensus or social welfare function demonstrate the interconnection between different family members considering “deservingness or ethical worths of consumption levels of each of the members” which leads to the conlcusion that “a family acts as if it were maximizing their joint welfare function” (Samuleson, 1956, p. 10).

Becker (1974, p.1080) used the idea of a unitary model for his rotten kid theorem which states that “if a head exists, other members also are motivated to maximize family income and consumption, even if their welfare depends on their own consumption alone”. Therefore given certain conditions it is most advantageous to maximinse utility of one certain household member who shows altruistic behaviour towards other household members (Himmelweit & Santos, 2010). While he has all members’ utility in normal goods, he then redistributes those in order to increase other household member’s utility as well (Himmelweit & Santos, 2010). The women living in Aceh, in an area where the shariah law was introduced, have to strictly follow first religion, then their parents and after marriage their husbands (Berninghausen, Kerstan & Soeprapto-Jansen, 2009). A good woman does always agree to her husband who is also the one in charge of the household’s money (Berninghausen, Kerstan & Soeprapto-Jansen, 2009). Therefore this case can be considered as a household supporting one family member, usually the husband, who has all the utility and who can then redistribute his utility to other members. Yet not all members may benefit when total utility is increased (Himmelweit & Santos, 2010).

However there are collective models that treat the household as including different individuals who have a different weight on decision making power that depend on factors such as education level, earning power, non-labour income, inheritance, divorce and employment legislation (Himmelweit & Santos, 2010). As a result bargaining models were developed to deal with following questions (Himmelweit & Santos, 2010): What is the outcome when bargaining process completely fails? What happens when individuals separate? Overall the nash bargaining solutions represents the inequality formerly already present.

A member of the household may, however, have a lower bargaining power due to certain norms that influence perceptions of members’ contributions to the household (Himmelweit & Santos, 2010). These perceptions are interrelated with well-being, including a person’s interest and advantages, and agency, stressing an active person as a doer and judge (Sen, 1985, 1987). Well-being can be defined as happiness, desire-fulfillment or choice, while freedom of choice is the most common used definition since it represents the utility achieved by a person’s chosen behaviour (Sen, 1985). In order to acquire pluralist information on well-being, Sen (1985, 1987) suggests an inclusion of functionings containing skills and abilities that can be gained due to education, resources available to a person such as income, commodities and assets, but also a person’s activities such as eating, starving, fasting or reading and finally a person’s being including for example being healthy and not having to be ashamed of one’s own clothes due to poverty. Furthermore a person is an active agent “having the moral power to have a conception of the good” providing the foundation for people to be economic, social and political agents leading to a person’s autonomy and personal liberty (Sen, 1985, p. 186). However feelings of obligation and perceptions often enforced by politics and education regulate legitimate behaviour (Sen, 1987); e.g. the common picture of women doing the housework, good Indonesian Muslim women who wear a jilbab[2] or that women should fully accept what their husbands say and do. These subjective perceptions influence the perceptions of own self-interest and leads to a lower or no willingness to bargain for own material interests (Himmelweit & Santos, 2010). Also co-operation, adding to total availabilities, is essential in a household whereas dividing these availabilities among members of the household can be considered as a conflict building the basis for the co-operate conflict model (Sen, 1987). The importance of perception is crucial as regards the position of the woman in the household who usually does most of the unpaid work which is often regarded as a small contribution and has a lower status than paid work (Himmelweit & Santos, 2010). However since all of the household members may have the same perception of the contribution an unequal distribution may eventually not lead to a conflict (Himmelweit & Santos, 2010). Noteworthy is that conflicts within households differ from other conflicts as usually the ones involved do not live wthin the same household and especially in a common household cooperation is essential (Sen, 1987). Co-operative conflicts can be responded to through social arrangements, in which different processes are combined to one whole contributing to the social content of technolgoy, controlling who does what, who gets to consume what and who makes what decisions which can be biased in several ways (Sen, 1987):

- Stereotyped social perception enforces certain roles in different types of labouring (e.g. women have to work in or near the house)
- Unequal patterns of gender divisions are stable and survive (e.g. women does the household and has to work while the man has free time after work passed on from generation to generation)
- Division between paid and unpaid work: who produces what and who earns what à inferior position of women in society (e.g. work inside the house which is mainly done by women is considered as less valueable than paid work outside the house done by men)
- Sexual division outside the household reflects already existing patters within the household (e.g. underrepresentation of women in certain fields of jobs, often higher paid ones)

In order to achieve the most favourable welfare outcome the family may co-operate in order to achieve a collusive arrangement that is higher than the breakdown position, the outcome when the bargaining pocess within a household fails (Sen, 1987). The family can bargain in order to achieve many different collusive agreements which can be demonstrated in a one shot prisoner’s dilemma game (figure 2) where XX is the breakdown position and YX is most favourable for the woman while XY is most favourable for the man which suggests a conflict between the man and the woman as each of them try to achieve their most favourable arrangement. Therefore if men have a higher bargaining power this will lead to arrangement XY which will not improve the women’s situation but only the men’s situation. Arrangement YY demonstrates the most equal outcome that can be achieved in successive games however both family members would require the same bargaining power or strong caring prefences to equally distribute the welfare.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2 Different collusive arrangements a couple may bargain for (Adjusted from Himmelweit & Santos, 2008, p.170)


[1] Ibu means mother and also stands for Mrs.

[2] head scarf

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What role do Indonesian women play in household decision making? An assessment of Amartya Sen’s cooperative-conflict model
The Open University
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household decision making, amartya sen, indonesia, women
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Angela Kuhnert (Author), 2012, What role do Indonesian women play in household decision making? An assessment of Amartya Sen’s cooperative-conflict model, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/280168


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