Reshaping gender roles in India: Improving women’s economic outcomes - Hindustan Times

Reshaping gender roles in India: Improving women’s economic outcomes

Jun 14, 2024 10:28 AM IST

This article is authored by Sona Mitra, director, Research and Policy, IWWAGE--an initiative of LEAD at Krea University.

Women with children all across the globe face the daunting task of balancing career growth with caregiving responsibilities, which often leads to career stagnation and perpetuates several gender gaps in accessing decent jobs. Globally women spend between two-10 times more on these activities, compared to men. Across G20 countries, without exception, women on average perform the majority of the daily time spent on unpaid care work, ranging from 90.5% in India to 60.2 per cent in Canada. Among the BRICS countries, in Brazil and Russia, women on an average spend 2.3 times as much time on unpaid domestic and care work than men, in South Africa, women spend up to four times more on these activities compared to men. However, India is a case in point where the contributions of women to unpaid domestic and care work surpasses all the countries with comparable economic growth. For instance, Indian women spend almost nine times more on performing these activities as compared to the men.

Gender equality (Pixabay)
Gender equality (Pixabay)

The 3Cs of the unpaid domestic labour, including childcare, cooking, and cleaning, are not only often overlooked, it is rendered as women’s primary responsibility within the household, contributing to economic inefficiencies, and hindering women's empowerment. The PLFS 2022-23 clearly shows that a significant proportion of women in India cite childcare and household work as primary reasons for quitting jobs. Most women in the age group 24-30 years exit the workforce to prioritize childcare. Only a handful return to their careers post maternity breaks. A recent Quartz report cited that around 70% of Indian women in the formal workforce who left their jobs for family reasons struggle to re-enter the job market.

A few recent reports have shown that carefully-thought-out strategies at workplaces have the potential of reducing dropouts among women due to their roles and responsibilities in the unpaid and care economy. One of the most important among them is investing generously for strengthening care services and infrastructures. Despite its crucial role in economic well-being, India’s public spending on care services remains minimal (below 1% of GDP). A recent IWWAGE analysis of budgets show that government’s spending on early childcare development has not crossed 0.5% of total expenditure in the last few years. Clearly there is dire need to raise resources for improving the care service strengthening for the economy.

This is important not only for supporting and enabling women to improve their economic outcomes and well-being, such investments to strengthen care services and caregiving also assign a dignity and higher value to the work which in turn helps to redistribute and reduce the disproportionate burden of unpaid care work on women. Policies that push for investing in care infrastructure, strengthening the care workers’ capacities, implementing women-friendly policies like maternity/family leaves are essential steps towards challenging the traditional gender roles and have the potential of reshaping those not only for the economy and community but even inside the households.

It is important that we build our perspectives on shifting the roles as a shared responsibility of the governments, communities and households for achieving gender equality. As mentioned earlier, male involvement in housework and care tasks are minimal compared to what women do and one way to encourage men to share the load is by assigning importance to the work. As a first step, this is possible when the governments proactively act to shift the collective conscience of the community in raising the value of household and care work performed by women, without necessarily having to monetise such work.

Governments also have the power to incentivise and redirect investments in initiatives that promote shared caregiving responsibilities such as flexible and remote working options for both men and women, encourage well-remunerated and decent job creation within the care ecosystems, create role models of gender sensitive and women-friendly workplace awards and so on. Transforming unpaid and care work for both men and women is essential for empowering women, advancing gender equality, and building a more equitable and inclusive future.

This article is authored by Sona Mitra, director, Research and Policy, IWWAGE--an initiative of LEAD at Krea University.

Share this article
Story Saved
Live Score
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, July 17, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On