Why Is Housework Considered The Essence of Being A Woman?

Women as unpaid labourers, Good Wife
She wakes up before the sun does and sleeps after the moon is on its brink. She cooks, cleans and repairs without asking anything in return. She waits at the table for everyone to eat and serves herself with the last, overcooked roti. She takes care of everyone in the family, in sick and in health, but never rests a day. Be it the master of the house, the kid or the oldies, no one can survive if she quits her job. This is the story of every homemaker who devotes her life selflessly for the welfare of others.

But unfortunately, their effort is neither recognised nor paid for. Rather they are taken for granted as if being confined in home and kitchen is the essential duty of a woman and duty receives no pay. Why is housework considered the essence of womanhood?

Why don’t we recognise its value in human life? These questions have been raised again and again. But still, women spend 352 minutes a day in domestic work while men invest only 51.8 minutes. Yet another report of the year 2020 stated that women spend around 84 per cent of their working hours in unpaid domestic work while men spend 80 per cent of the same on paid work.

So now let’s look at this from a new perspective- how paying homemakers can boost the economy of the country? Yes, you heard that right. Paying homemakers would be a towards making our country economically powerful. Unpaid domestic labour accounts for 13 per cent of India’s GDP. 49 per cent of the women contribute to the country’s GDP through housework but are never counted.

Firstly, Homemakers support the economy by caring for those who work in it. It is an undeniable fact that without a homemaker’s support, a man who is part of the workforce cannot perform well. From waking up and sleeping on time to preparing nutritious food for them, everything is taken care of by a homemaker. Imagine the scene of Thappad when Amrita does everything for her husband, from waking him up to making sure that he has his breakfast. And then consider the time when Amrita leaves him on his own. He couldn’t even manage to get a proper coffee. So by taking care and keeping the men in the workforce fit enough to work, homemakers make a contribution in pulling up the economy of the country.

Secondly Valuing the unpaid labour of women, such as housework, can increase their participation in the workforce. It is true that most of the homemakers are women.

And it is also true that women’s labour force participation is very low. Most of the women spend their time and energy performing unpaid domestic work. But if start paying and valuing the domestic work and they start filing the income taxes, women’s participation in the workforce will increase which will ultimately lead to an increase in the GDP of the country by 30 per cent.

Varsha Rani, who has done her MA in economics and teaches economics for more than 28 years, told SheThePeople, “Women’s labour, be it paid domestic labour or unpaid, is never counted under India’s economy and GDP. Every effort of the woman is taken for granted, be it washing the clothes or stitching them. Are these not labours? Do they not require energy and effort? Then why is it not considered as paid jobs of the economy?”

She further says, “We can never get the accurate amount of the GDP and national income because essential work like housework is never taken into consideration. Our economy is divided into three sectors- primary, secondary and tertiary. All the sectors’ income is counted under GDP but women’s domestic work has not been recognised in any of the sectors.”

Moreover, in an interview with SheThePeople, UK based financial journalist Katerine Marcel says that digitalisation will give us an opportunity to reassess the economy and account for the unpaid care work done by women. “What if the machine age will mean that a lot of men become unemployed and parts of the economy where there will be demand for human labour are things that are traditionally associated with women or termed as female skills is a development which could happen through technological forces.” Marcel points out that unpaid care work has always been rendered feminine and hence less valuable and important. But it will gain importance through digitalisation and humans, and not women alone, will be specialising in care work.

So it is high time that we start realising the effort that women put into domestic work. Without domestic work, the country cannot run. And we need to keep this in mind before sidelining women’s efforts as the duty of their gender. One day if homemakers stop doing the housework, even Prime Minister won’t be able to reach his office on time. So you can imagine how the entire country will function.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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