ANALYZING INDIA’S CARE ECONOMY
India has a large portion of unaccounted work that is not included in it’s GDP. It’s dominating force is that of the women who work in the households without getting any payment for it in return.
Jobs like cooking, cleaning dishes, looking after babies, elderly, handicapped, diseased and so on are usually considered low status jobs.
Well, you will be amazed to know that all such menial yet crucial jobs contribute to the economic working of all countries.
Now, what is it?
Care cconomy is basically that category of economy where workers provide personal services to the customers helping them manage their daily particular chores. This is usually covered under the informal sector. The share of women is much larger than men and probably, this is one of the reasons why it is considered a highly unpaid and under-valued job. The deep rooted patriarchal system has a lot to do with this.
Here’s an example that shows how this informal sector works and is formulated;
Consider a household, say; Household 1: Now, consider a woman X, a post graduate, who is from a well to do family and is a homemaker, who looks after her family by cooking, nursing etc. This woman does not work outside her house to contribute towards the family income.
Now, household 2: Here, we consider another women Y who is uneducated but can perform domestic tasks with ease. She also works as a homemaker. However, the total family income is very meager and any extra earnings will always come handy as a support.
How about X finding a job for herself in the formal sector, say the corporate world, and hires Y to perform her household duties for a payment in return, out of the salary she receives from her employer?
The salary of X will be a cherry on the cake for the 1st household and will also boost confidence of X as she is now using her education to contribute to the family earnings and is now independent.
Moving on to Y’s wages, she will be able to support her family financially and the 2nd household will be able to meet their daily expenses and will be better off.
Also to provide job security to care workers Y, there can be a provision wherein non cash allowance for house-help can be given to the employees like X by mainstream employers of X.
Thus, by employment of one woman, further 2 or more women become financially independent and this is how a chain is created. It can be concluded that women’s involvement in unpaid care work is indirectly proportional to the direct inclusiveness of women in the economic system.
It helps not only at the micro level but also at the macro level.
Who are these women, though?
They are women who might have left their jobs or an opportunity to an income for taking care of their family, kids, etc. It is believed that the opportunity cost of this work can boost up a country’s productivity.
Then why has it not been included till now?
According to NITI Ayog, the average time a woman spends on unpaid care work is 9.8 times more than that of men. This number is only 3 times more in the whole world. This shows how much our country has to catch up. There have been various efforts made in this prospect and time series data has been calculated. But this process was never followed up by the government.
The contribution of women in the economy currently is merely 17%. This is even less than that of sub Saharan region of Africa at 39%.
What will this do ?
The inclusion of women’s share of unpaid care work will boost up India’s economy, for sure. On the other hand, this can only happen if women are empowered and the inequality between men and women is reduced. Giving equal opportunities to women is important to reduce the inequality in job prospects. There have been some initiatives made by the Indian government like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 , which made a huge intervention in the employment sector. It gave recognition to the unpaid labour force in the country. Yet, a lot of this unpaid work done by women on a daily basis is still left to be recognized.
Strikingly, if women’s work is included in the economy, it can add US $300 billion to the economy of India!
Despite this major development, countries all over the world have yet to represent the work that is not generating income, per say. Moreover, their contribution is way too less in the Indian economy than the rest of the world. This is mainly because women have not been considered as a part of the formal work force. It comes under the informal sector. The daily household chores, taking care of their families, loved ones, etc is not considered as ‘work’!
The very low rates of women participation in India is also due to the fact that women are not treated equally in terms of education opportunities as well as in the working sector.
Though, the inequality in education is decreasing, that in the working sector is not. Their needs to be some steps taken by the government to reduce this. Unskilled labor projects need to be given more attention in order to reduce this vast gap between the men and women in the economy and then only we can both represent as well as empower the women labor force not only in the formal sector, but also in the informal sector.