Thrust on sharing women’s unpaid work in families for boosting GDP
Asma Begum (not her real name), 32, used to sob inside her house by closing the door after receiving scolding from his elder son Nasim, 13, who often said his mother should not have given birth to him as she fails to meet the demands of her children.
Nasim scolded his mother two years ago during Eid-ul- Fitr festival, when children usually expect some new dresses from their parents.
Yes, Asma could not provide new dresses to her three children due to limited income of her husband, which are mostly spent on meeting three meals a day.
But things got changed when Asma got a job in the year 2017 as a cleaner for a media house with a salary ok Tk. 9,000 per month.
Now her extra income not only brings a smile to her children's faces but also meets their school fees, better foods and other expenses.
Asma is a lucky one because her husband Aminul Islam (not his real name) has helped her in managing all the household chores including washing clothes, cleaning floor, preparing breakfast and lunch, cleaning dishes and taking care of kids in her absence.
The sharing has given her the scope to earn Tk. 9,000 to lead a better life than a year before.
Though Asma is fortunate to manage, somehow, her household work but this is not the case for hundreds of thousands of women from lower class to upper middle class.
In the case of Paromita Roy, 26, (not her real name), she has to struggle to strike a balance between her teaching job and household chores.
A school teacher, Paromita does all domestic chores in exchange for permission to take up a job, which was a taboo in the family, after a hard bargaining with her husband and in-laws who never stopped complaining about her Unpaid Care Works (UCW).
"I had to persuade my husband and other in- laws to get the job. I had no other choice but to earn my own money as I do not get anything from housework," she told the Observer that she keeps her child in a Day Care Centre for few hours then go to work.
So, she wakes up every morning with severe back pain for hard work but cannot think of taking rest to
manage everything at home to go to her school.
From kid's diaper change to feeding him, from making breakfast to cleaning house and washing clothes- she does all.
Even if necessary she takes care of her sick mother- in- law at night to make her and other family members happy.
The struggle of working women is more or less the same as working men hardly work at home. The unpaid care work women do at home have no economic value as it is not adjudged so. Nevertheless, women are contributing by doing many jobs of maintaining family, rearing children and so on, although these work are not the part of GDP (gross domestic product).
According to a study of ActionAid Bangladesh titled "Incorporation of Women's Economic Empowerment and Unpaid Care Work into regional polices: South Asia", women in Bangladesh spend over six hours a day doing unpaid care work while their male counterparts spend just over an hour on such activities.
On average, women spend 6.3 hours on unpaid care work each day, out of a total work time of 15.3 hours, which is 41.4 percent of their total work time. On the other hand, men spend a mere seven percent of their total work time on it.
Another study conducted by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) released in May 2019 also shows that women do three and half times more Unpaid Work than men. A woman does domestic chores about 24 hours per week whereas a man does only seven hours per week, the research report says.
The condition gives credence to the old rhymed couplet-- A man may work from sun to sun/Woman's work is never done. The rhyme is the mother of the celebrated proverb-A woman's work is never done. That is, it is never over. It never ends. Housework and raising children are a seamless ceaseless flow of work, work and work.
Commenting these work hours of women, Dr Fahmida Khatun, Research Director and Head of Research at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said that women do domestic chores at least 16 hours every day, which are not considered as having economic value.
Many women can contribute to the economy and GDP if their UCW would be shared by the other members of the family.
The Gross Domestic Product could be double if women's unpaid care work is accounted for, she said.
"Unpaid Care Work done by women are not counted as labour in the law and policy of Bangladesh till date. There is no mention of such work in any economic statistics. It is not addressed in our national budget or in Gross Domestic Product (GDP)," she added.
Referring to the access of girls to education in Bangladesh Farah Kabir, Country Director of ActionAid Bangladesh, said that the access of girls to education has increased and they made their mark in multiple fields like labour, nurse, care giver, security guard apart from skill-based work like doctor, engineer, and entrepreneur's.
"Women have proved that they can move equally like men in every sphere. So, why not a man and other members of a family will come forward to help a woman in regards of Unpaid Care work," she asked.
However, the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs listed the unpaid care work as third on the 'Priority Development Agenda 2015.'
The section 23.10 of 'National Action Plan 2013' of the National Women Development 2011 laid down suggestion about valuation of women's household work and its inclusion in GDP.
"But initiative is yet to be taken to implement this action plan. We must keep in mind that government needs to take steps to evaluate and redistribute UCW to achieve the target 5.4 of SDG," she added.