On July 24, the Tamil Nadu government launched camps to facilitate the registration of applicants for the Kalaignar Magalir Urimai Thogai Thittam, or women’s basic income scheme. Aimed to “recognise women’s unpaid labour”, the scheme will provide Rs. 1,000 per month to women in eligible households. In June, the Madras High Court held that home-makers are entitled to an equal share in household properties purchased by the husband. “In generality of marriages, the wife bears and rears children and minds the home. She thereby frees her husband for his economic activities,” the court had observed.
Both the government and the court have not only thrown light on unpaid care and domestic work carried out by women but also announced welfare measures and verdicts in favour of women, recognising their contribution. Such work includes household-specific tasks like cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, household management and maintenance, grocery shopping, child care, and caring for sick or elderly members.
Indian women have disproportionately borne the responsibility of domestic and care work, which is unpaid. Data shows that married women spend on average over seven hours a day doing such work, regardless of their employment status, while men spend less than three hours. This trend is consistent for women across income levels and caste groups.
Moreover, the more the burden of domestic work, the lower the participation of women in the labour force. India’s female labour force participation rate (LFPR) has been declining for more than 20 years, despite the share of educated women surging in this period.
Chart 1 | The chart depicts female LFPR in India since 1990 and the enrolment rate for girls in Class 10. The enrolment rate refers to the share of girls who enter Class 10 compared to the total number of girls in the population who are of the age to be in that grade.
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In the last two decades, female LFPR has fallen from 30% to 24%, despite the Class 10 enrolment rate among girls increasing from over 46% to 87%.
Chart 2 | The chart compares India’s 2022 female LFPR to that of other BRICS countries (excluding Russia) and select South Asian countries.
India’s female LFPR (24%) was the lowest among all these countries. India had the second-highest female population in the group. In contrast, China, which has the highest female population, had the highest female LFPR of 61%.
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Chart 3 | The chart shows the average time (in minutes) spent on unpaid domestic and care activities during a day for men and women across employment groups.
Women who are not in the labour force (neither employed nor seeking employment) spend the highest amount of time on unpaid domestic/care work, averaging 457 minutes or 7.5 hours a day. But employed women were not far behind, spending 348 minutes or 5.8 hours a day. Unemployed men spend 3.5 hours per day on such chores, over two hours less than employed women. Employed men spend 2.7 hours a day on such chores, over three hours less than employed women.
Chart 4 | The chart shows the average time spent (in minutes) on unpaid domestic and care activities in a day by men and women categorised by marital status.
Married women spend the most amount of time engaged in unpaid work (nearly 8 hours) compared to women who are widowed/divorced/separated (5.7 hours) or have never married (4.3 hours). In contrast, married men spend the least amount of time on unpaid work (2.8 hours) compared to men who are widowed/divorced/separated (4.2 hours) or have never married (3.1 hours).
Anushka Kataruka and Hashika Sharma are interning with The Hindu Data Team
Source: World Bank, Time Use Survey (2019) by National Sample Survey Office
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