Women are burdened, time-stretched, unpaid: IIM-A professor Namrata Chindarkar

Policymakers, researchers & civil society need to work, says Namrata Chindarkar of JSW School of Public Policy at IIM-A.

Published: 07th March 2023 08:13 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th March 2023 08:53 AM   |  A+A-

Namrata Chindarkar

Namrata Chindarkar.

By Express News Service

Women are more time-burdened and time-stretched and unpaid. Women spend more active engagement hours and are more likely to be engaging in multiple activities and less in leisure, Namrata Chindarkar, Associate Professor and Chairperson at the JSW School of Public Policy at IIM Ahmedabad, analysed in a study titled, ‘Gendered Patterns of Time Poverty in India: Evidence from a Nationwide Time Use Survey’. She tells Jitendra Choubey that NSSO’s Time Use Survey does not count cognitive burdens borne by both women and men in the household.

How did you calculate and arrive at this data that say women spend 7.2 hours on unpaid work, while men spend 2.8 hours? Please explain your calculation and data source.
The analysis reveals that women in the working-age category (15-65 years) spend six hours on unpaid domestic work compared to 1.8 hours by men, indicating disproportionate distribution of domestic work. If we add time spent on collecting fuel-wood for the household (which is a separate home production activity) to unpaid domestic work, women spend 7.2 hours on average on these activities compared to 2.8 hours spent by men.

Your research shows women spend lesser time in agriculture work. Does this survey counts only agricultural field work and not livestock care work which is mostly done by women? 
Agricultural work in our calculations refers to only “paid” agricultural work. Livestock care is characterised under a category that NSS defined as “own household production”.  Looking at the own household production, men on average spend 210 minutes in comparison to an average of 133 minutes for women. This is largely because of various activities, which are included in this category, many being male dominant such as household maintenance, woodworking, travelling long distances for raw materials and so on. 

The data file has all the activities listed under “home/self production” category. The distinction between paid and unpaid work is very simple in the TUS survey.  Any work, irrespective of the category, that has an associated legal pay is characterised under “paid activity”. All other activities are characterised as “unpaid”. With this definition, the same activity can be classified as either paid or unpaid.

Data show that paid and unpaid activities of male are 553.12 minutes and female is 643.72 minutes. It shows female is more active than men. Even women have lesser leisure time than women. What does it explain?
Yes, women are more time-burdened and time -stretched. Global literature concurs with our findings that women are more likely to not just be spending more active engagement hours but also are more likely to be engaging in multiple activities. 

This results in lack of self-care and leisure time. This can potentially explain two aspects in society. First, since women are already stretched, balancing home and work life in comparison to men, they are less likely to join the labour force. This reconciles the decreasing participation rate for women over the past decade. Second, it perpetuates the social norms in society that continues to put the burden of household/domestic labour on women. It signifies a lack of autonomy over time.

Your research shows wage-earning men are 72 per cent more likely to overwork than wage-earning women. Does it justify women’s long hours of work in the house and men’s in the workplace?
No. Of course, it does not justify long hours at work or doing unpaid work. The point here was to highlight that even men are time poor if we use different measures of time poverty. It should be re-emphasised that “overwork” as a measure of time poverty is applicable only to wage-earning individuals. It captures the time spent on the wage-earning activity only.

Overwork can explain the boundaries that many households draw in responsibilities between the genders. Men’s domain of responsibility is supposed to be the workplace. In many workplaces, working long hours are expected from the employees and since more men are in the formal employment sector, we observe more overwork among men.

Will we consider compensating women for their unpaid work hours in the near future? If yes, then what would be the mechanism?
These are two different questions – accounting for unpaid work in our national accounts and compensating women for their unpaid work. There is a lot of work including by ILO and UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) on methods for valuing unpaid work and accounting for it in the national accounts.

Accounting for unpaid work is a multi-step process where each activity that is conducted in the household needs to be identified, operationalised and valuated (in monetary terms).

Identification and operationalisation are possible only with detailed time use survey. 

As for the second part of question regarding compensating women for unpaid work, it will take a lot of coordinated work between policymakers, researchers and civil society to design such a mechanism – which activities, what wage rate, what will be the implications on intra-household expenditures and dynamics, how will it be enforcement – a lot needs to be thought through.


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