What we refer to as “the economy” would not operate without the unrecognised footing of work provided by the “care economy”–the necessities of everyday life through cooking, and raising children. India should learn from neighboring Bangladesh about how to tap the energy of women in its efforts to spur development, argued Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen in a 2013 interview with Al Jazeera’s John Paul O’Malley.
The recent National Statistical Office report on time use in India states, women spend close to 5 hours (299 minutes) per day on “unpaid domestic services for household members”. Men spend around 1.5 hours (97 minutes) on the same. The time allocation on “unpaid caregiving services for household members” also underscored the unreasonable burden of unpaid work and emotional labour on women.
“A much higher proportion of workers, like school teachers, family planning workers, health carers, immunisation workers, and even factory workers, are women in Bangladesh than in India,” Sen pointed out.
Women As Unpaid Labourers Of Love
All over the world, women are the only providers of informal care for family members with medical conditions or disabilities, including the elderly and adults with mental illnesses. Some suggest that there are several societal and cultural demands on women to adopt the role of a family-caregiver. Stress-coping theories propose women are more likely to be exposed to caregiving stressors, and are likely to perceive, report and cope with these stressors differently from men.
The World Psychiatry Association, which issues the World Journal Of Psychiatry, a peer-reviewed medical journal, demonstrates the gender differences in caregiving in the family. “Some of them have concluded that despite conflicting reports, the bulk of the evidence shows that women devote greater time to caregiving for the elderly, compared to men,” it says. It further adds talks about the relatively other aspects of caregiving, such as satisfaction with caregiving. The findings are ambiguous, with some studies covering that women are less satisfied, while a similar number of studies have found no satisfaction among female caregivers.
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Sophie Walker, British political activist and leader of the Women’s Equality Party in the UK has remarked, “This is an old pattern where we expect women to do most care at home and then are at risk of being penalized for seeming less serious about work and career. It is typical that we do not design policies with women in mind.”
In 2020, UN Women, the UN entity working for gender equality and the empowerment of women, had organised a Leaders’ Virtual Roundtable on COVID-19 to advocate representation of women and girls as central to pandemic response efforts.
UN Women observed that while most care work takes place in private homes, it is still a relevant issue for policymakers who should “support an equal sharing of the burden of care between women and men.” According to the organisation’s executive director, Anita Bhatia, there is a great opportunity to remove stereotypes from the gender roles that play out in households in many parts of the world.
American feminist economist Julie A. Nelson revealed how the idea that “women are more risk opposed than men,” a well-known statement actually rests on extremely thin practical evidence. It is no mystery why feminist economists and feminists assert that non-market activities, including children-care and domestic chores, are as important as going to an office and sitting in front of the desk.
The work women do in the carapace of the household amounts to the growth of the economy because the members of the household benefit from the work of the woman in the house. She handles everything and is praised for the same but the praise is rooted in the knowledge that she was supposed to do the work. The praise is not so much rooted in gratitude and hardly gives women the respect they deserve for always going out of the way and thinking about the needs of others before themselves. Shouldn’t the women in our society be encouraged to cater to their own emotional needs before they invest so much on everyone they love? Will it not result in the growth of everyone part of the society and not just the individuals who avail unpaid services from women? Don’t the women in our households deserve care and support?
The views expressed are the author’s own.