There is inverse relation between amount of time women spend on unpaid work and empowerment

9Excerpts from the paper “Measurement of Unpaid Household Work of Women in India: A Case Study of Hooghly District of West Bengal”, by Anindita Sengupta, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Burdwan, presented at the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth (IARIW) General Conference, Dresden, Germany:

A sample of 400 households comprising 200 rural households from 8 villages of the Chinsurah-Magra Administrative block and 200 urban households from 8 municipal wards of the Hooghly-Chinsurah Municipality area (400 female and 347 male respondents) was collected. Main occupation structure of all the surveyed households was: 6.5 per cent were self-employed in non-agriculture, 10.1 per cent were self-employed in agriculture, 11.6 per cent were agricultural labourers, 35.2 per cent were other workers, 19.1 per cent were domestic workers and remaining 17.6 per cent were regular salaried employees.

There is a strong and inverse relationship between the amount of time that women spend on unpaid household work and their economic empowerment. The burden of unpaid household work hinders women from seeking employment and income, which in turn holds them back economically and, therefore, obstructs their economic empowerment. Furthermore, the hard work that is often involved in carrying out domestic responsibilities impacts negatively on the health and wellbeing of women, further compromising their ability to participate in economic, social and political spheres.

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Unpaid household work is the production of goods and services by family members that are not sold on the market. Some unpaid work is for consumption within the family, such as cooking, gardening and house cleaning. The products of unpaid work can also be consumed by people not living in the household, e.g. cooking for guests, buying groceries for an elderly relative, or educating the domestic worker’s children.

Hooghly is one of the central district of West Bengal which is surrounded districts like Burdwan, Bankura, Howrah, 24 Parganas (N), Nadia and Medinipur (W). After independence, Hooghly has become a very important industrial district specializing in machine tools, textile, jute and automobile industries. Because of its nearness to Kolkata and existence of major industrial centres, urban areas of Hooghly have attracted people from all over the State and the country. The district has a very large hinterland as well which is notable for agricultural products. Therefore, despite being one of the most important industrial districts the district retains its basic rural characteristics with over 70% of its total population depending on agriculture and retained its position as one of the major producers of cereals in West Bengal.

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Average time spent on paid and unpaid work by female and male respondents of shows that average work-time of rural male respondents is 63 hours and that of urban male respondents is 73 hours. Average leisure and personal care time of rural male respondents is 81 hours and that of urban male respondents is 71 hours. Average work-time of rural female respondents is 79 hours and that of urban female respondents is 74 hours. Average leisure and personal care time of rural female respondents is 65 hours and that of urban female respondents is 70 hours.

This clearly indicates that average work-time of women is higher than that of men and average time for leisure and personal care for women is lower than that of men both in rural and urban areas. However, difference between the average working hours of women and men is higher in rural areas compared to the urban areas.

images (3)Rural men spent 22.1 per cent of whole time on paid work, 9 per cent on unpaid household work, 12.4 per cent on unpaid social work and studies and remaining 56.4 per cent on leisure and personal care. On the other hand, rural women spent 14.3 per cent of whole time on paid work, 27.9 per cent on unpaid household work, 13 per cent on unpaid social work and studies and remaining 44.8 per cent on leisure and personal care.

Urban men spent 32.3 per cent of whole time on paid work, 7.5 per cent on unpaid household work, 11.1 per cent on unpaid social work and studies and remaining 49.1 per cent on leisure and personal care. On the other hand, urban women spent 10.8 per cent of whole time on paid work, 26.5 per cent on unpaid household work, 13.9 per cent on unpaid social work and studies and remaining 48.7 per cent on leisure and personal care.

In rural as well as urban areas, share of time spent on paid work is much lower for women than for men and that spent on unpaid household work is much higher for women than for men.

Women with age group of 15 years to 29 years and with age group of 30 years to 44 years have almost same average working hours on unpaid household activities, whereas, average working hours on such activities have declined for women with higher age groups. Women with age group of 30 years to 44 years have the highest average working hours on paid work.

Men with age group of 15 years to 29 years and with age group of 30 years to 44 years have same average working hours on unpaid household activities, whereas, average working hours on such activities have slightly declined for men with higher age groups. Men with age group of 30 years to 44 years have the highest average working hours on paid work.

For all the age-groups, average working hours of women on unpaid household activities are higher than those for men. On the other hand, for all the age-groups, average working hours of men on paid activities are higher than those for women.

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