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Respect of woman in society linked to her economic status


Minister of State (I/C), Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) chaired the first consultation meeting on Valuation of Household Work Undertaken by Women in India, here today. The consultation with academicians, experts and economists from across the country was an effort towards need to recognize women’s contribution within the household in the country, and to acknowledge the significance of their unpaid labour within the household and society.

Speaking at the occasion, the Minister said that a large part of the male dominated patriarchical society undervalued the contribution of women’s labour in the household, even though immense and very labourious work is done by women in both rural and urban areas in various sectors as well as the household, which helps in enhancing productivity of the men in the household too. She stated that there was need to recognize this ‘invisible’ work and value it. She stated that the respect of women in Indian society is linked to her economic status. In many countries other than India too, by making women primarily responsible for unpaid or low paid work and childcare, and by making men primarily responsible for wage labour, the gender division of labour tends to benefit men and keeps women, by and large unequal to men in the labour market as well in the society. This perpetuates the gender based inequalities which result in other forms of discrimination and unequal societal norms, she said.

The valuation of such unpaid and unrecognized labour which eventually contributes to economy and human capital, is thus very essential, the Minister pointed out. It also established their claim on national resources to improve their conditions and their productivity. She mentioned that she has written to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) to look into the matter of evaluation of the unpaid labour of women in India, and to mainstream time use surveys in the National Statistical System. She informed that MOSPI has constituted an expert group under the Chairmanship of Prof. S. R. Hasim for conducting All India Time Use Surveys in this regard. Smt. Tirath stated that such valuation of the unpaid labour of women will aid towards formulating suitable strategies for empowering women in India.

The Secretary, M/o WCD,  speaking at the meeting stated that this platform brought together experts and academicians to deliberate on the issue. He said the work, both paid and unpaid, is part of the country’s economy and institutional non-recognition of unpaid and invisible labour in any form leads to exclusion of the workforce, mostly women, from pension schemes and other benefits designed for labour. While there is much academic debate on this topic, there is a need to evaluate women’s domestic work to mainstream it, he stated. The meeting with experts and academicians will throw light on the issues connected with this topic, and the various the methodological dimensions.

Present among the participants were Prof. Indira Hirway, Director for Centre for Development Alternatives; Prof. Amita Shah, Director, Gujarat Institute for Development Research, Prof. Jayati, Ghosh, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU; Prof. Asha Mehta Kapur, IIPA; Dr. Indrani Chandrasekharan, Planning Commission; Ms. Sudham Kapoor, UN Women; Dr. Pamela Singh, DU; representatives from V V Giri National Labour Institute , NCAER, M/O HUPA, Rural Development, Social Justice and Empowerment, Tribal Affairs, Agriculture, MOSPI, and NCW.

Speaking at the meeting, Prof. Hirway stated that Time Use Surveys (TUS) formed a valuable tool to rectify the lacunae and shortcomings of the Labour Force Surveys which do not take into account the sporadic, petty and intermittent nature of work performed by women in the domestic environment. She also stated that data is not collected for non- System of National Accounts (SNA) works within the existing statistical methods, such as household work, child and elderly care and voluntary work. Such work can be given visibility through TUS which collects and classifies comprehensive information on how people spend their time on different activities. It also taken into account the flexible and scattered nature of work done by women, and enhances the quality of data available on the work force. Valuation of unpaid and invisible labour by women will lead to quantification of women’s contribution to the economy; establish her claim on national exchequer and inclusion in national policy; claim in establishing and determining legal compensation in case of divorce; and in empowering women.

While noting that much of women’s labour is not based on her capability or skills but determined more as per the prevailing social norms, Prof. Hirway pointed out that an important objective of valuation of unpaid women’s work, she said, is to device strategies to (1) reduce non-SNA work, (2) reduction and redistribution of woman’s work, both productive and unproductive, (3) bring about just and fair division of labour, and (4) provide better alternatives for employment. While much of the drudgery of the work is due to lack of amenities and facilities like water etc. at the doorsteps, it will help the government in providing better facilities at house-step; and make better use of technology to improve productivity of unpaid daily household labour such as cooking etc.

Experts also noted that the valuation of such work will reinforce the recognition of the impact and contribution of non-market work towards market work, and the macro-economy dimensions of such valuation. They also noted that statistics suggest that while only 30% of the active age group in the labour force is comprised by women, about 70% are men. Hence, the gender dividend that can be achieved by mainstreaming valuation of unpaid women’s work in the national accounting data will be higher. Some were of the view that apart from mainstreaming the data in national economic statistics, it will in itself aid in better informed policy making within various ministries. However, the policies framed need to be sectoral, as the different sectors have their own contextual requirements and gender dimensions. Academicians also opined that any monetary compensation based purely on valuation of unpaid labour in absence on non-monetary and non-economic intervention by the Government may however have limited impact. Thus the strategy needs to be comprehensive. The need for a legal framework for asset sharing was also mooted which has the potential to go a long way in empowering women and enhancing her dignity in the society and the household. Experts noted that the purpose of the valuation should be wholesome. It should be divorced from issues such as the purity of data collection, but focus on the benefits that shall accrue from such an exercise. The purpose should be how to feed the data into better policy making, strengthening the existing laws and policies, and reduction and redistribution of women’s work.

In her concluding remarks, the Minister stated that such regional consultations were also planned by the Ministry to involve a larger base of stakeholders. A task force shall be created within the WCD Ministry to study these suggestions and a comprehensive strategy paper shall be formulated based on the inputs which shall contribute to a policy on the matter.


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