By Sheshu Babu
In analyzing economic data, various sectors like industry, agriculture, services, etc. are taken into account. But domestic work done by women is rarely ‘measured’ by analysts. A woman getting up early to make ready food for working husbands is very valuable but it does not figure in the estimates relating to economic figures.
In a compilation made two decades ago by the Global Women’s Strike campaign, unwaged work contributes as much as £ 739 bn to the British economy. Two-thirds of women working out of the home full time did most of the housework.
It also showed that women in waged work with young children do 46 hours a week of housework (childcare, cooking, laundry, shopping, gardening, etc.) compared to 25 hours by men.
Things do not seem to have changed ever since. Worldwide, women spend an average of 4.5 hours on unpaid work including grocery, shopping, etc. That is more than double the time men spend, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data released in 2016. Relative to women, men spend the most time doing chores in the Scandinavian countries , and the least time in India , Mexico, Turkey and Japan.
In India, women spend six hours and men spend less than an hour, the data suggest. Even in the United States, women spend about four hours a day on unpaid work, compared with 2.5 hours for men.
According to Shahra Razavi, chief of the research and data section at the UN Women, there is a reason this kind of ‘unpaid work’ is not calculated in GDP — because society still sees ‘ “women’s work” as less valuable. “If women stopped doing lot of the work they do unpaid, then the whole economy would collapse”, she says. Many technological appliances like dishwashers, laundry machines, etc are accessible to rich women only.
Thus, the estimation of economic growth may not reflect the hard domestic labour behind statistical figures. In India, according to the Census of 2011, people engaged in household duties were considered as “non-workers” even when 159.9 million women stated that “household work” was their main occupation.
In a report , the International Monetary Fund suggested that if women’s participation was raised to that of men, then India would grow its GDP by 27%. While the global unpaid labour hovers around 13%, its value in India is almost 40% of its current GDP.
Hence, the value is very significant and also crucial for over all development of a country. This should be kept in view while computing growth figures. A form of measurement of domestic work must be developed so that such important wing of socio-economic sector gains prominence. The welfare of a family, a society, state, country or the world at large finally depends on basic domestic chores management.
Men should participate more and more in domestic work to relieve women from stress specially women doing paid job work are also burdened with ‘unpaid’ domestic work thereby causing health hazards.
When the time spent by women shrinks to three hours a day from five hours, their labour force participation increases by 20%, according to OECD. Hence, there should be a balanced approach and women should not be burdened or over burdened with unpaid domestic work.