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The Financial Express

Focus on unpaid care work and economy

| Updated: November 24, 2021 22:13:41


Focus on unpaid care work and economy

When "Integration of Care Economy in Policy Formulation" is the title of a webinar, the reference obviously is to unpaid work, care work in particular, rendered by women. That the care work performed by women in monetary value would stand at 40 per cent of the country's GDP may surprise many not accustomed to appreciating women's contribution to the country's economy. Then, a one per cent rise in female employment could increase economic growth by 0.31 per cent and contribute an additional amount of US dollar 11.3 billion to the country's GDP in 2021. That means caring responsibilities are unequally distributed, the perception of which is rooted in discriminatory social institutions and gender stereotypes. Eventually society suffers in terms of economic growth on account of these biased attitudes towards women not only at the bottom stratum but also at the highly educated level. Women have to make a sacrifice of their potential for higher contribution to economy in the interests of their families. By the time their responsibilities become lighter or diminish, their careers are over.

No wonder, gender inequality in unpaid work has ever remained the missing link in the perceived but not rationally endorsed gender gaps.  This has been responsible for varying labour outcomes such as participation in job market, wages and quality of employment. The participants in the deliberation of the webinar claim that recognition of the unpaid care work provided by women can help reduce domestic violence. Here recognition has at least two different connotations, if not more. First, legal and then social recognition. Legal recognition here bears little significance because it is impossible to do policing at the family level. In fact, the endorsement must come from within the family itself. This calls for an elitist and culturally developed social more ---one that is unbiased and gender-neutral.

What is important here is to review the entrenched patriarchal social privileges that prompt gender discriminations from top to bottom. Education, however modern and progressive it may be, cannot fight the discrimination where social divides between different classes are unbridgeable. The need is to integrate education with culture in its mellifluous diversity. Here sports and physical activities or athleticism have a happy marriage with fine arts such as painting, sculpture, music and creative pursuits in other branches of art. Not all can be artists but there is no harm for people to be connoisseurs of art and culture.

Understandably, the challenge is daunting to bridge the gender gap and develop mutual respect for the work done by both men and women. Without appreciation of each other's contribution to family's welfare and economic benefit, the existing gender norms and stereotypes cannot be dismantled for redistribution of responsibilities for care and household work in order to maximise income of a family. Like charity begins at home, this distributive justice to workloads should be done at the level of individual family which is a unit of society. Economic consideration together with a paradigm shift in the perception of gender relationship can make a difference in the discriminatory system. 

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