I-Day Speech to women’s work
- Many argue that women's burden of childcare and domestic work is the most important factor disadvantaging them in the labour market, both globally and in India.
- This care work burden" or "motherhood penalty" as some call it, is seen to underlie gender gaps in wages, lifetime earnings, career choices, and upward mobility.
- In India, women's low labour force participation rate is also often explained in terms of the constraints imposed by childcare and domestic tasks, which fall mainly on them due to social norms.
- Globally, for instance, total fertility rates (TFR) have fallen to replacement levels or below both in high-income and many middle income countries. In India, as per the 2019-20 National Family Health Survey-5, the TIR is at 2.1 (replacement level) with only five States (Bihar Jharkhand, Manipur Meghalaya, and UP) having TERs above 2.1.
- childlessness is growing. With few children, the time women spend in childcare will fall. And even if the intensity of care per child increases, especially as middle-class women focus on "quality time" and more extra-curriculum activities for kids, there are limits to this rise.
What Needs to be done?
- Improvement in basic infrastructure can further reduce domestic work burdens.
- In India, for instance, domestic work for rural women often includes arduous tasks such as fetching water and fuelwood.
- Piped drinking water and clean natural gas (already improving) will reduce this load.
- In particular, for enhancing Indian women's employment prospects we need greater emphasis on demand-side factors.
- This would include training women in nontraditional skills with market demand, creating more public and private sector jobs for them closer to home, and raising awareness among employers-using substantial existing evidence that hiring women can have a significant positive effect on productivity and work culture.
- Persistently challenge the idea that most Indian women don't join the labour force because they prefer housework to paid work, and ask for policies that proactively create jobs in which women would like to work.
- We have a long way to travel from an Independence Day speech about respecting women, delivered from the ramparts of the Red Fort, to creating decent jobs and respectful workspaces for them. That is where the demographic dividend really lies.