Most Indian women engaged in unpaid housework

Over 60 per cent of adult women are primarily engaged in housework .

Over 60 per cent of adult women are primarily engaged in housework .

Close to two out of every three Indian women are, in their prime working years, primarily engaged in unpaid housework, new NSSO data shows.

This phenomenon, on the rise over the last decade, is least common in the southern and north-eastern States and most common in the northern States, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in particular.

In data released on Sunday, the National Sample Survey Office’s 68th round, which covered one lakh households in every State and Union Territory, looked at women’s usual employment status.

Over 60 per cent of adult women, the NSSO found, are primarily engaged in housework — slightly more so among urban women. The data shows that women, in both rural and urban areas, are increasingly reporting domestic work as their main occupation.

Even though a majority of the women surveyed were engaged in productive activity — collecting firewood or rearing household poultry — they could not be classified as ‘workers’ as the value added by and the number of hours spent on these actions were not sufficient to constitute ‘economically productive activity’.

Feminist economists like Indira Hirway, Director and Professor of Economics at the Centre for Development Alternatives, Ahmedabad, have urged NSSO to implement ‘time-use surveys’ which would allow researchers to understand how much time home-bound women spend on economically productive activity.

Among women who spend most of their time on domestic duties, the survey noted that over 60 per cent said they did so because there was no other family member to help out with the household chores.

A third of women doing domestic work also said during the survey they would be willing to take up regular paid home-based work, particularly of tailoring.

The right question The survey did not ask women engaged in domestic work if they would like to take up work outside the house.

“There is undoubtedly one segment of women doing domestic work who do not want to take up paid work outside the house. But we cannot assume that this is the case for all women, and the NSSO should be asking them this question,” labour economist Preet Rustagi, Professor at the Institute of Human Development, said.

Moreover, while the NSSO asks home-bound women what they would need to take up paid work (easy finance, for instance), it does not ask if women would like someone to share the domestic burden with them.

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2022 3:04:51 pm |