Decent employment and higher incomes can protect women against domestic violence

BY: Zadok Kwame Gyesi
File photo
File photo

Women who earn higher incomes than their spouses are less likely to suffer intimate partner violence (IPV) in Ghana, a new study by researchers at the Department of Economics of the University of Ghana has found.

The study, titled: “The Effects of Differential Spousal Earnings on Domestic Work and Intimate Partner Abuse in Ghana,” notes that higher earnings relative to their spouses are an important factor for reducing women’s domestic work and childcare burdens and for protecting women against intimate partner violence.

“Women’s higher relative earnings are found to be a protective shield against spousal abuse,” the study noted, pointing out that “men are more likely to recognise the benefits of an additional household income and place increased “value” on their wives, leading to a lower likelihood of intimate partner violence.”

It states further that “a woman who fulfils her obligations with regards to her contributions to the household may also enjoy greater confidence, allowing her to negotiate positive outcomes in her relationship.”

The study also adds that another reason why higher earnings may be protective against IPV is that it likely provides a woman with the financial ability to exit an abusive relationship.

Women’s prospects of being employed in high earning jobs will be improved with the acquisition of skills training, particularly in digital skills, financial and business literacy.

Funded jointly by the Institute of Labour Economics (IZA) and the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID), the study called for widespread education to change social and cultural expectations that burden women with domestic work.

According to the study, cultural norms and expectations also play a significant role in the distribution of domestic and care work within the household. Early socialisation of boys and girls to carry out domestic work equally within Ghanaian households would go a long way to contributing to changing social norms and lessen the burden of women in the Ghanaian society.

“Men and women should be socialised to appreciate the need for cooperation in carrying out domestic and childcare responsibilities within the household, the study noted, indicating that “Traditionally gendered roles which place a heavy domestic work burden on women, combined with women’s increased roles in the labour market, have adverse implications for their health and economic wellbeing.”


In almost all countries around the world, women and girls spend more time on domestic work and childcare than do men and boys. The unequal distribution of domestic work between women and men is greater in developing countries such as Ghana.

A consequence of women’s domestic care burdens is that they are time-constrained leading to limited opportunities to engage in paid work and earn incomes, a situation which can limit their bargaining and decision-making power within the household.

Furthermore, because women are largely responsible for domestic work and child care, they face reduced opportunities for training and educational pursuits. The combination of engagement in income-earning activities and domestic work is tantamount to a ‘double work shift’ for women. This can put their health at risk.

Coupled with the increasing incidence of intimate partner violence (IPV) in Ghana this situation can have deleterious effects on the affected women’s physical and mental welfare.

Research team

Conducted by Dr Nkechi S. Owoo, Dr Monica P. Lambon-Quayefio, Prof. Abena D. Oduro and Dr Sylvia E. Gyan, the researchers explored whether women’s earnings improve their bargaining position and reduce their domestic and childcare burdens, as well as their experience of physical and/or emotional violence.