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«Juanwen Yuan Thesis committee Thesis supervisor Prof. dr. A. Niehof Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households Wageningen University Thesis ...»

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3.1.1 Household The concept of household is somewhat controversial and has been defined in various ways. Rudie (1995: 228) defines it as “co-residential units, usually familybased in some way, which take care of resource management and primary needs of its members.” Clay and Schwartzweller (1991: 11) say that “households are one of the basic units of human social organization. To a large extent, they represent the arena of everyday life for the vast majority of the world’s people.” Pennartz and Niehof (1999: 3) define the household as: “A social unit that effectively over long periods of time enables individuals, of varying ages and of both sexes, to pool income coming from multiple sources in order to ensure their individual and collective reproduction and well-being.” They regard household as a consumptive unit and a production unit.

The household is an arena of cooperation as well as conflict (Sen, 1990).

Gender is a critical concept in analyzing households. Men and women have different roles, both in society and in the household. The household is internally complex and provides the context for diverse activities. “So it must be disaggregated: hence the different roles and activities of individuals (men; women;

natural and adopted children) must be considered” (Hussein and Nelson, 1998:23).

Men and women in the household have unequal positions, especially with regard to the distribution of resources within the household resource distribution (Quisumbing, 2003; Sen, 1990). Pennartz and Niehof (1999) see the household as mediating between individual and society, because the individual is an actor in the political and economic system and – at the same time – is a member of a family household, contributing to its productive and reproductive functions. Zimmerer (2004: 803) considers “the household’s management of resources and property as highly diverse and constituted in contingent and often fluid ways with respect to power relations both within the unit and in relation to outside social actors and institutions.” The allocation of time among members within the household is much diversified and depends on many factors, e.g. its composition, life course, resources, and power; “The allocation and use of resources for the household involve social mechanisms, e.g. the division of labour and decision-making”

29Literature review and conceptual framework

(Niehof, 1998: 44). The intra-household division of labour depends on its composition (Pennartz and Niehof 1999). Verma (2001) points to the fact that children in poor households sometimes have to sell their labour to make a financial contribution to their school fees and household expenses.

In the rural setting, households are mainly farming households. Both reproductive and productive activities take place in the domestic sphere of the household (Clay and Schwarzweller, 1991). Farming households function in a specific economic, ecological, cultural and political environment (Niehof, 1998).

Niehof and Price (2001: 9) see a farming household system as consisting three subsystems: “family, farm and household”. For Roquas (2002) a farming household is a household that has at least one member involved in agricultural production.

The household as a collective has its own life course, and the individual household members have their own life course as well (Pennartz and Niehof, 1999). Wolf (1984) mentions that the household family cycle and the individual life cycle are definitely related, although the relationship is sometimes weak. The household’s economic situation, household members’ roles and power are changing at different stages of the household’s life course and according to the phase in the life course of the individual members concerned. (Agarwal 1994a: 106) has pointed to the relative power of older women compared to the younger ones.

Ellis (2000) states that the level of farm output is determined by the phase in the farm family cycle, as he calls it.

A household can also be regarded as having agency, which is reflected in household strategies (Pennartz and Niehof 1999; Wallace, 2002). Niehof (2001) points out that, within the household context both joint strategies and strategies of individual members can be found. Household strategies and individual members’ strategies may be similar, but may at times also be different. However, when members only pursue individual strategies and do not cooperate, thereby disturbing the balance between conflict and cooperation (Sen, 1990), the household will fall apart or individual members will move out.

The household is dynamic. Its composition, boundaries, resources, and strategies are subject to change. Household boundaries are permeable, with support relations extending to beyond the household (Rudie, 1995). The latter is the case, for example, when migrated household members send remittances to support the household, or when the household supports children studying elsewhere. Household level analysis is important in human-environmental analysis, with regard to, for instance, agricultural intensification and extensification (Zimmerer, 2004). In this research, the farming household is defined as a unit in which a group of people related by kinship and/or marriage, usually a nuclear family, individually as well as jointly use resources for producing their livelihood. For farming households, land is one of the main resources for generating a livelihood. Hence, the way in which the land was allocated to households at the implementation of the Household Responsibility System in China, was a crucial factor for the livelihoods of the households concerned.





The concept of household is different from that of family, though the two are often used interchangeably. In the following section, I will discuss the concept of family.

30 Chapter 3

3.1.2 Family The concepts of family and household are often used interchangeably, yet they are different. According to Allan and Crow (2001), family is more about the relationship of marriage and blood-linked relations, whereas households are units that can be both family-based and non-family-based. A focus on family centers on solidarity and conflict between people who are linked through kinship. A focus on households emphasizes a different set of concerns, such as the division of responsibility and workload, the strategies the households have, and the resources the members use. Household types have increasingly diversified, along with the global economic change (Allan and Crow, 2001).

Households may not be visible entities in terms of buildings or sets of rooms within residential units, but they can be identified in terms of specific functions, such as cooking or the pooling of finances. There are family households and non-family or institutional households (boarding schools, homes for the elderly). Niehof (1985) has found in her research in Madura, Indonesia, that extended families that share a compound or even a house, do not necessarily share a kitchen space, or if they do, they do not necessarily cook together.

3.1.3 Kinship Households are not closed units but are embedded in kinship networks and neighbourhoods. Niehof (2003) discusses the relationship between kinship and household as follows: kinship patterns influence household formation and composition. Kinship positions determine one’s access to resources and the division of labour. Kinship is important for care giving, both within households and beyond.

Kinship is regarded as an important resource with a biological base, while kinship relations and networks function as a support system in livelihood generation (Niehof and Price, 2001). Family obligations extend to wider kin (Allan and Crow, 2001). Extra-household kinship relationships influence the economic fate of women more than that of men, and that of female-headed households more than that of male-headed households, because kinship members take care of the children and send money to these female-headed households (Bruce and Lloyd, 1995). The closer the kinship relation is, the greater the obligations are (Harris, 1999).

Kinship relations involve exchange, but this does not necessarily mean equivalent exchange (Harris, 1999). The agricultural producer cannot automatically rely on free labour by other household members because of their mutual kinship bond (Roquas, 2002).

3.1.4 Headship The head of the farming household is usually a man. The household head is important in managing the household. The head usually has more power than the other members of the household. Female and male household heads manage the household differently. A head may allocate resources from the common fund to household members differentially, according to the position they occupy in terms of age and sex (Kabeer, 1991). Female-headed households usually imply the 31 Literature review and conceptual framework absence of adult men, while in male-headed households usually one or more adult women are present (Bruce and Lloyd, 1995). Ellis (2000) mentions that households suffer labour shortages without an adult male. According to Gottschalk (2001), the rise in poverty rates during the economic growth period in 1973-1994 in the United States was partially caused by an increase of female-headed households. The household head can be de jure head and (or) de facto head.

In her study conducted in Yaan, Southwest China, Chen (1996) has categorized farming households into five types, based on the management position of the household head: the male-managed farming household, the female-managed farming household, the mainly female-managed farming household, the mainly male-managed farming household, and the jointly managed farming household.

Cohen (1992) says that, in China, the terms of de jure head and de facto head could be translated as “family head” and “family manager”, respectively. “The family head, as senior male, represents the family to the outside world, while the financial manager is generally in charge of family economic affairs, and the re-distributor is custodian of the family purse in arrangements where income and expenditure are pooled. However, the ideal situation is where the same person does both – where seniority and managerial competence coincide” (Cohen, 1992: 362-363).

The number of de facto female household heads is increasing. In rural China, most men are still the de jure household heads, but with more men migrating, women increasingly become de facto heads of farming households. Some women remain the head even when the husband comes back, especially in the case of middle-aged wives and when the husband is well educated. The middle-aged wives have developed strong networks and capacities when their husbands were absent, and higher-educated men more easily accept the equality of the sexes (Goldstein et al., 1997). Cohen (1992) notes that, in the past, the household head (manager) was mainly concerned with the division of labour in farming, but that now, there are diversified sources of income for the manager to manage. Female household heads adopt diversified strategies to survive and to deal with crises in China (IFAD, 1995).

3.2 Livelihood and migration

3.2.1 Livelihood Livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets and activities required for a means of

living (Chambers and Conway, 1992). Ellis (2000:10) defines livelihood as follows:

“A livelihood comprises the assets (natural, physical, human, financial and social capital), the activities, and the access to these (mediated by institutions and social relations) that together determine the living gained by the individual or household.” Livelihood is about the means of living and includes what people do and what they achieve by making a living (Van Tilburg, 2001). Assets, access and activities are very important elements that interact with each other in generating livelihood (Ellis 2000). In reality, it is not easy to separate the assets and resources for making a living from those needed for domestic production. As Niehof and

32 Chapter 3

Price (2001: 20) say: “A subsistence farmer cannot separate the assets and resources needed for farming from those needed for maintaining the household.” Niehof and Price (2001) look at livelihood as an open system, interacting with other systems, and using various resources and assets to produce a livelihood, with the household as the locus of the livelihood generation. They conceptualize

livelihood as having the following components:

• Inputs: resources and assets.

• Output: livelihood.

• Purpose: livelihood adequacy for meeting basic needs (Chambers, 1989).

• Activities: livelihood generation and the composition of the livelihood portfolio.

• Agency: efforts of households and individuals to achieve livelihood adequacy.

• Quality: degree of vulnerability (or sustainability) of the livelihood produced.

• Environment: context within which the livelihood system functions interface with other systems and institutions.

• Locus: the household as the locus of livelihood generation (Niehof, 2004:322).

Livelihoods are not static; they are subject to change (Francis, 2000). Ellis (2000) has found that many rural households within South Africa lost their main source of livelihood and had to return to a mix of activities: small-scale farming, agricultural work, petty trading, even though none of these was very remunerative. Francis (2000) also states that a change in livelihood resources will raise new issues in rural households, such as the division of labour.

Land is an important natural asset at the environmental level for rural livelihood systems and access to land is very critical for livelihoods of rural households (Bebbington, 1999). Price (1998) mentions the fact that land reform in Vietnam led to rich farming households accumulating more land and becoming richer. Ali (2005) did research in Bangladesh and found that the villagers tried to accumulate land when they had money. Access to land is also determined by gender (Niehof and Price, 2001).



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