My mother is a homemaker. Like almost all homemakers, it is an unpaid form of daily work. So what is the monetary value of work like that?
Without getting into the gender politics of it, I can frankly say I don’t know the actual measurable value of that work. The debate on this ranges from those who argue that it is immeasurable, to those who do not ascribe much value to it.
In a bid to end that debate, the National Sample Survey Office, which is a government agency responsible for acquiring critical data on key aspects of the Indian economy, will conduct a year-long household survey (using time-use surveys) starting January 2019 to measure that work.
With employment statistics looking grim, the government wants an estimate of the value of unpaid work, especially household chores. Speaking to Bloomberg, Debi Prasad Mondal, Director-General of NSSO, said that the survey’s findings will be published in June 2020.
“We will be able to understand how much time is spent in cooking and washing,” said Mondal, speaking to the business publication. Moreover, he said the “findings would give policymakers more information about employment in the economy and how to target welfare programs.”
By some estimates, the contributions of nearly 70 crore Indians – who perform household duties – aren’t recorded in the national income since they aren’t technically part of the workforce.
This lack of recognition mainly hurts women, who perform approximately 75% of the world’s unpaid care and domestic work – measuring 13% of the gross global GDP, says a UN report.
Gender dynamics in this country make the statistics even more lopsided for women in the country. Indian women are nearly half the population and spend 352 minutes a day on unpaid work versus 51.8 for men.
“India’s labour and employment surveys broadly capture the work done by men. Many women are not in employment, so we don’t get much details about them,” said Mondal.
As per findings of the 2011 Census, 159.9 million women stated “household work” as their main occupation. According to estimates by feminist economists, the value of unpaid work done by women is approximately 16 lakh crore per annum. As social scientists Amrita Nandy and Rohini Hensman argue in this column for The Indian Express:
“The range of women’s varied skilled non-paid work directly contributes to the economy. By shouldering all these responsibilities, women make all other forms of labour possible.”
In essence, a clear understanding of how women taking care of the household are spending their time will help governments design and implement targeted policies that would ease their burden.
Take the example of this government’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, a scheme which seeks to provide free cooking gas to women in rural India.
The scheme not only seeks to mitigate the health burden arising from firewood fumes but also the time saved in collecting it. How these women use their spare time will be captured via a time-use survey the NSSO looks to conduct.
In a report last year, the NITI Aayog also said that such a survey could assist governments with assessing why women’s participation in formal labour work isn’t anywhere as high as that of men, and what policies it can implement to ensure to change these dynamics.
For those who argue that household work isn’t work, here is what Nandy and Hensman say:
“Non-earning is not the same as non-working, unless people are ill or disabled. As daughters, siblings, wives or mothers, women are mostly employed in full-time work that involves household chores, and production of goods and services not sold in the market and so on. They also perform a swathe of care-giving work besides the rearing of children. The major difference between this work and paid employment is financial compensation.”
This survey will hopefully look to address this major data gap in our economy, and actually measure the value of their work.
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)