By Lalit Garg
A few months ago at the World Economic Forum, Oxfam presented a report titled ‘Time to Care’, which exposed the economic conditions of domestic women and shocked the world. The women, who handle their home, take care of the family; do countless difficult tasks, from getting up in the morning to sleeping at night. There has been no reduction in the work of these domestic women in the corona epidemic, rather their responsibility has increased and they have played a positive role in defeating the corona epidemic at the domestic level. If we say that maintaining the house is the most difficult task in the world then it probably will not be wrong. This is the only profession in the world in which you are at work for 24 hours, seven days a day, suffer a crisis every day, and meet every deadline and that too without leave.
Think, she does not take any salary and does so many activities. Her hard work is not usually considered. At the same time, this work of her is not even known as being beneficial in the progress of the nation. While that much work would have been done by the servants, a large amount would have to be paid as salary. On the other hand, a woman who works in a company, after working for a fixed period and a fixed number of days, gets a specified amount of salary. Her work and this sequence are seen as contributing to national progress (GDP). It is believed that such a woman’s contribution in the economic development of the country. The question is why the labor of domestic working women is not evaluated economically? Why this outrageous treatment of domestic women?
According to Oxfam, women and girls in India work for 3.26 billion hours every day. If their contribution to the economy is valued, it will be close to 19 lakh crore annually, which is four times India’s annual education budget of 93 thousand crores. This report also emphasizes that the domestic work pressure on women is very high. Due to this, they are either forced to work for fewer hours or they have to leave the job. According to the report, due to the burden of ‘taking care’ across the world, the percentage of unemployment in women is 42, while it is only six percent among men.
Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, says that domestic women and girls get little benefit from today’s economic system. She spends billions of hours cooking, raising children, cleaning and caring for the elderly. It is because of them that the wheels of our economy, business and society keep going. These women do not get enough time to study or get employment. Due to this, she is reduced to the bottom of the economy. ‘Because a woman covers herself with the responsibility of almost all household chores, it is not thought that she too is making financial contributions. Such women do not add anything directly to the income of the household, so there is no economic value of her work. The annual wealth of the country’s wealth in the name of GDP includes the income in which the money was transacted. Needless to say, what is the importance of a housewife in a family and society cannot run without him, but considering her work to be unproductive does not only reduce he’s status, but also destroys his existence and identity. While the work of domestic working women looking after the home and maintaining the family is comfortable, it is a very complex, laborious and most important job, but ironically, there is no evaluation of it at the family level or GDP level.
There are extensive discussions about the existence of housewives these days. Housewife’s activism on social media has led to such questions among them whether the contribution of housewife to family, society and country is negligible? Does the housewife have no economic existence? Do they have no right to make economic decisions? Are housewives only to have children and to maintain homes? Why is the contribution of the housewife less than a man in the development of the country? Should there be a provision for salary for housewives in return for their work?
These are many such questions on which an atmosphere of awareness is being created not only in the country but also in the world. This topic has also agitated campaigns for women’s awakening and women empowerment. Having such discussions, creating a positive environment for domestic women and changing the thinking of the government will definitely be called an attempt to bring the existence of women out of the mist. At the same time, the future will become an environment to develop the mindset on a very challenging problem in time.
The household role and economic evaluation of the housewife is ongoing on several fronts in and outside our country as well. In 2004, the High Court said that at least the value of the housewife should be fixed monthly. The demand for monthly allowance for housewives has also come to the fore in Kerala. The Finance Minister of Bangladesh believes that the value of housekeeping should be determined. But this is not the case. The value of the housewife will be certain, but a bigger question than that is related to the mindset of ending the housewife’s existence.
Swedish journalist Peter Letchmark has presented several worrying situations in the article ‘Stain of being a housewife’. In this article, the complex situations of domestic work and the role of women inactive in it has been raised. His article has appeared in the New York Times. In Sweden and Norway, it is considered disrespectful to be called a housewife; women are shying away from housekeeping. This is not only happening in Sweden, Norway, but also in India. Although the housewife has not disappeared here and it will take years for this to happen, housekeeping is now viewed with a low eye as an old-fashioned chore. New Generation girls are not ready for this at all.
So we are moving towards those complex situations where domestic work will be presented as a challenge for us even if we are ready to give economic value to the labor of domestic women, but till then this important sector of the family must have been in danger. We need housekeeping almost as before, rather it has increased and it is becoming challenging for us to meet that increased need. We have to fix the value of housekeeping and return it, as well as men will have to come forward for it. They will have to share an equal hand in domestic work. In order to balance this monopoly area of women, men also have to play a partnership. In front of us is the model of Sweden. There, the men get several months’ paternity leave, and for this, incentives are also given. While creating a new India, we must ensure the system of economic evaluation of the labor of these domestic women.
(Lalit Garg is a Journalist, columnist, writer and member of Rajbhasha samiti, Ministry of Home Affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)