ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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How Much Time Is Too Much Time?

The Growing Gender Gap in Time Use and Well-being

The fi erce debates surrounding the issue of unpaid domestic labour in the 21st century have resulted in political parties promising to monetise the work undertaken by housewives in India. The recent “Time Use in India 2019” report released by the National Statistical Offi ce adds to the discourse that problematises the disproportionate differences in domestic division of labour between women and men. This article uses the larger fi ndings of the NSO survey to probe the pattern of time-use at the national and state level that may be explained by pre-existing gender norms and behaviours.

The author expresses her sincere thanks to L Venkatachalam, Kripa Ananth Pur and Karen Coelho from Madras Institute of Development Studies for offering their valuable and constructive feedback during the execution of this research article.

The study of domestic inequality has become prominent in the past two decades, with more economists and policymakers studying the root cause of inequality which is seen to get manifested through domestic labour (Blau 1998). Not only is domestic labour unequal, but it is predominantly undertaken by women who do not derive any direct remuneration or compensation. While paid employment is often associated with greater economic independence for women, it is also associated with the creation of a “triple overlap” between gender, economy and family for women (Blumberg 1991). Swaminathan (2005) problematises this as an increase in employment does not always result in the unburdening of domestic duties and care work for women.

As a result, irrespective of social and economic status, women had to make personal adjustments to effectively fulfil multiple roles (Kabeer 2007). Even though women received earnings and were able to achieve power at the workplace outside the roles of being a mother or a wife, the tasks relating to domestic management and care rested on their shoulders (Gershuny 2003; Swaminathan 2005). The inequality in domestic labour has now become a key focus of political debates. In the same vein, in the recent state elections, political parties in Tamil Nadu had proposed to provide remuneration for the domestic work undertaken by “housewives.” Even though the proposal was lauded, some argued that domestic work is forced work and its monetisation might disrupt the larger goal of bringing more women into the paid labour market. Such an argument might be devoid of nuances that we will lay out in this article. Irrespective of the implication of the remuneration, the proposal has generated a political argument on the need for recognising domestic work.

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Updated On : 7th Jul, 2021
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