Billions of hours of unpaid care work by women go uncounted

Published on Jan 29, 2020 10:35 PM IST
HT Image
HT Image
ByKalpana Viswanath

This year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where world leaders and business leaders meet yearly to discuss pressing issues, focused on climate change and inclusive capitalism. Ironically, Oxfam released two important reports during the event that clearly show that most countries are becoming less inclusive. The reports are: “Time to Care: Unpaid and underpaid care work and the Global Inequality Crisis”, and the India Inequality Report entitled “On Women’s Backs”.

The reports show that globally, inequality is growing and while the rich amass more wealth, the poorest remain so. In 2019, the world’s billionaires — 2,153 people — had more wealth than 4.6 billion people. Another disturbing statistic was that the world’s 22 richest men have more money than all the women in Africa.

The statistics for India are equally startling yet not unexpected. India’s richest 10% control more than 74% of the national wealth and the top 1% hold more than four times the wealth held by the poorest 70% of our population. India’s billionaires hold a combined total wealth that is more than the Union Budget outlay, for the fiscal year 2018-19 which was at 24.42 trillion. These are devastating numbers.

Further, the reports this year focused on the invisible issue of unpaid care work that is primarily done by women and girls. The report shows that Indian women and girls put in 3.26 billion hours of unpaid care work every day — a contribution of at least 19 trillion a year to the Indian economy. Women’s unpaid care work is rarely measured as it is seen as something that is done for love. Recognising that it takes up hours of women’s time and often prevents their ability to access other opportunities could lead to policies that can help in reducing the drudgery, especially in country like India. In slums and resettlement colonies, running water and toilets are often not available. Therefore, resources need to be spent on water and sanitation, electricity, childcare and health care to help improve women’s lives. A report by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights in 2018 indicated nearly 65 percent of girls who were out of school were engaged in household work.

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO’s) 2018 data on India shows that women in urban areas spent 312 minutes on housework whereas men spent 29 minutes a day. In rural areas, it was 291 minutes and 32 minutes, respectively. This is huge gender gap which has not been addressed in any serious way. Furthermore, for middle and upper-class households, this work has been outsourced to lower class women, thereby completely bypassing the need to address it as an issue of gender inequality.

In countries where domestic help is costly, families have had to do the work of care themselves and this has led to greater involvement by men as more women entered the workforce.

In India, this has not occurred and, therefore continues to diminish the work of care. Care work and housework are lifelong and continuous. None of us can live without this work being done. But in India, it will continue to be devalued work that perpetuates class and caste divisions as long as inequalities grow, and it remains women’s work.

Policies and interventions, as well as changes in social norms, are all needed to tackle the huge inequality and injustice that our country and others are facing. The figures are a clarion to that we cannot go on with business as usual.

@viswanathkv

(The author works on issues of women’s safety and rights in cities)

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • The Capital has over 18,000 parks and gardens, but most of them are concentrated in just five districts, shows a study by Centre for Youth Culture Law and Environment (CYCLE). (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

    Uneven spread of parks in Delhi: 2.3K in South Delhi, 142 in north-east

    The Capital has over 18,000 parks and gardens, but most of them are concentrated in just five districts, a new analysis has found, with the fewest such spaces in the congested north-east Delhi region, throwing up concerns over the inequitable spread of green patches in the rapidly expanding margins of the city. West Delhi is second, with such spots spread over 6.6% of the district and East Delhi third with 6.3%.

  • On August 1, the nine-year-old girl was allegedly raped and killed by a priest and three others at the crematorium located in the Purani Nangal village, near Delhi Cantonment. (HT Photo)

    Waiting for justice to immerse her clothes: Mother of Dalit girl raped in Delhi

    A year has passed since the day a 9-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly raped and murdered inside a crematorium in west Delhi's Delhi Cantonment area. The girl's mother has still kept her clothes. She says that she will immerse them in the Ganga, but only after the court decides on the fate of four men who raped and murdered her daughter. The four accused are lodged in Tihar Jail.

  • People gather near the banks of the Yamuna river where a boat capsized in Uttar Pradesh’s Banda on August 11. (PTI Photo)

    Banda boat tragedy: Death toll rises to 12; three still missing

    The death toll in the Banda boat tragedy rose to 12 on Sunday after one more body was recovered three days after the fateful mishap in the Yamuna river on August 11. Three more bodies are still missing and search operations were going on, Banda superintendent of police Abhinandan said. “Three bodies are missing. The search operation by the NDRF, SDRF and PAC divers are underway,” he said.

  • Vinayak Mete. (Facebook Photo)

    Maharashtra: Maratha reservation activist and MLC Vinayak Mete dies in accident

    Vinayak Mete, Maharashtra legislative council member and leader of pro-Maratha outfit Shiv Sangram, died early on Sunday morning when the SUV he was travelling in met with an accident near Bhatan tunnel in Raigad district on the Pune-Mumbai expressway. While the driver escaped unhurt, he alleged that the highway control room did not respond. Expressway police officials claimed that Mete's driver was trying to overtake another vehicle when the accident took place.

  • File photo.

    'Role model for investors': Karnataka CM's rich tribute to Rakesh Jhunjhunwala

    Veteran investor and billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala died on Sunday morning at 62, prompting an outburst of condolences across the country. Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj S Bommai remembered the business magnate as "a role model for young investors". Karnataka health minister K Sudhakar also paid tributes to the ace investor. The minister defined Jhunjhunwala as the Warren Buffet of India and he even paid condolences to his family. He was reported to be battling health issues.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, August 14, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now