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Unpaid Labour of Women Is the Most Unrecognizable Factor, Totally Lopsided and Unaccountable and Unappreciable!

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Unpaid Labour of Women Is the Most Unrecognizable Factor, Totally Lopsided and Unaccountable and Unappreciable!

India’s economy becomes attractive mainly on the backs of women’s unpaid work!



In the recent years, India has scored significant gains in various development parameters including economic growth, women’s education, and reducing fertility rates. Yet, the country’s Female Labour Force Participation Rates (FLFPR) remain amongst the lowest in the world.


ILO estimation of women’s unpaid work

The ILO has estimated that 2.3 billion people, mainly children and elderly, will be in need of care by 2030. While there will be an extra 100 million older people, there will also be 100 million children—aged 6–14—needing care by the same year. The cost of providing this care is likely to push women, in particular, deeper into economic and time poverty

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that unpaid care work is amongst the most critical barriers preventing women from joining and remaining in the workforce.

This disproportionate burden of unpaid care work creates what is called “time poverty”, which inhibits women’s ability to dedicate time to paid work and acquire the skills necessary to seek better job opportunities.

According to an IIM Ahmedabad research, women in the age group of 15 to 60 spend close to 7.5 hours daily on unpaid labour. Working women also spend a lot more hours than men in performing unpaid labour, leading to ‘Time Poverty’.

This experience is not unique to India. Globally, 46.7 percent of women attributed their absence from the workforce to domestic duties, as compared to only 6.3 percent of men.

Cross-country estimates showed that a two-hour increase in unpaid labour commitments correlates with a decrease of 10 percent in the Female Labour Force Participation Rates (FLFPR).

Indeed, even prior to COVID-19, Indian women were spending about 8X more hours on care work as compared to men, according to 2019 data; the global average is 3X. Women spend 335 minutes a day on unpaid domestic work, as compared to the 40 minutes of their male counterparts. Beginning in March 2020, the pandemic lockdowns further increased women’s burden of unpaid care work and imposed additional constraints to their economic participation. The closure of domestic support services—including schools and Anganwadi centres providing basic healthcare and child-care services—shifted the responsibility for their provision to the women of the household—i.e., the default unpaid caregivers.


A Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy survey revealed that around 39% of women lost their jobs during the pandemic due to several reasons, including an increasing demand for unpaid domestic work put on them by their families. The burden of unpaid work falls disproportionately on women in India because these tasks are highly gendered and ruled by patriarchy.


Consultations by Nikore Associates—held between May and August 2022 to understand the impact of COVID-19 on women’s work— revealed that regardless of geography or occupation, women in India consistently reported an increase in domestic workload since the start of the pandemic. Nearly 66 percent of informal women workers faced increased domestic duties while 36 percent had to do more child/elderly care responsibilities during the first two months of the lockdown. Some 43 percent of urban, female solo entrepreneurs reported a loss of productivity due to domestic work.


Key Findings from the Time-Use Survey 2019

Time-use surveys are a globally accepted tool to measure the amount of time spent by persons within a country or sub-national region on various activities, such as paid work, education, unpaid work, and even leisure. India’s first Time-Use Survey (TUS) was conducted by the National Statistical Organisation (NSO) between January and December 2019 and was published by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).

It covered nearly 83,000 rural and 56,000 urban households, under which 2.2 lakh females, 2.3 lakh males, and 130 transgender persons aged six and above were surveyed across 36 states and union territories.

The findings reveal crucial patterns, both across states and country-wide, on how men, boys, women, and girls use their time on activities such as care work, employment, and learning.

The following paragraph discuss these findings in turn.


Women, on average, spend 46 percent of their waking hours on unpaid care work—8X the number of hours spent by men.

In both rural and urban areas, women of working age (15 – 59 years) spend a majority of their waking hours on unpaid work, whereas men spend a majority of their day in paid employment.

While rural women spend 8.2X of their time on unpaid work, the difference is far more pronounced in urban areas, where women spend 9.6X more time on unpaid care work.

This disproportionate time spent by women in care activities places India amongst the worst-performing countries, behind only China (72 percent) and South Africa (71 percent). [


Married females shoulder a larger share of unpaid domestic work, compared to their unmarried counterparts.

Married females spend 8.6X the time married males spend on unpaid work.

Meanwhile, the gendered burden of unpaid work on unmarried females is about half. Females who have never married at the time of the survey perform 4.2X the unpaid care work compared to never-married males.

Amongst those who are widowed, divorced, or separated, the gap is narrowest at 2.3X

Married females spend 52 percent of their waking hours on unpaid care work compared to the 12 percent for never-married females.

Married males spend 6 percent, and never-married males spend 3 percent of their waking hours on unpaid care work.

There are no significant differences between the rural and urban areas.

While both married females and males have higher participation in unpaid care work, the gender gaps are wider for married individuals. About 97.2 percent of married females participate in the provision of domestic services, while 31.5 percent of married males do. In contrast, while 45.9 percent of never-married females undertake domestic work, only 16.6 percent of never-married males do.


BQ Prime powered by Bloomberg reveals that:

16.4 billion hours are spent by women worldwide on unpaid care work daily.

This is equivalent to 200 crore people in the world working eight hours per day, without payment.

It is clearly the biggest reason for women, globally, falling off the workforce.

Not only are women not paid, there is no recognition of the hours they are putting in. An Oxfam report says people think if a woman is not able to perform her household chores properly, there is no harm in pulling her up. It’s constructive criticism after all!

It therefore seeks the help of India Incorporated to see how they can be valued and how policies that support work-life balance for women—flexible working arrangements, paid parental leave, work from home options can be implemented that allow women to balance paid work with unpaid care work.

It is possible for Policymakers to take steps to measure, recognise and value unpaid care work as part of the economy. This includes recognising the contribution of unpaid care work to society and ensuring that women are not penalised for taking time off from paid work to provide care.


CONCLUSION – Women’s Unpaid Wok Is Essential for Households and Economies to Function…!

Around the world, women do the vast majority of the unpaid work, including child care, cooking, cleaning and farming. This unpaid work is essential for households and economies to function, but it is also valued less than paid work. UN Women expert Shahra Razavi reveals the real value of unpaid care, and how we can reduce the burden on women by tackling entrenched stereotypes.


Redistribute unpaid work

From cooking and cleaning, to fetching water and firewood or taking care of children and the elderly, women carry out at least two and a half times more unpaid household and care work than men.

As a result, they have less time to engage in paid labour, or work longer hours, combining paid and unpaid labour.

Women’s unpaid work subsidizes the cost of care that sustains families, supports economies and often fills in for the lack of social services. Yet, it is rarely recognized as “work”.

Unpaid care and domestic work is valued to be 10 and 39 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product and can contribute more to the economy than the manufacturing, commerce or transportation sectors

With the onslaught of climate change, women’s unpaid work in farming, gathering water and fuel is growing even more.

Policies that provide services, social protection and basic infrastructure, promote sharing of domestic and care work between men and women, and create more paid jobs in the care economy, are urgently needed to accelerate progress on women’s economic empowerment.


Proprietary blog of Karma Global Tech Management LLC

This blog has been collated and compiled by the internal staff of Karma Global with the knowledge and expertise that they possess, besides adaptation, illustration, derivation, transformation, collection from various sources, for its monthly newsletter Issue 12 of June 2023 and in case of specific or general information or compliance updates for that matter, kindly reach out to the Marketing Team – Kush@karmamgmt.com / yashika@karmamgmt.com

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