Impacts of devaluing domestic work

Source: Indian Express

GS-2:Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and issues arising out of their Design and Implementation

Synopsis: There is a negative impact of devaluing the household care activities of women, on society.


  • The following incidents have brought the issue of valuation of Women’s household activities.
    • Recently, Kamal Hassan the leader of the Makkal Needhi Mayam (MNM) party made an election promise of a salary for Women’s unpaid care work at home.
    • A recently released Malayalam film, The Great Indian Kitchen has highlighted the hard labour of women in the kitchen.
    • As per  time-use survey 2019, nearly 4.5 lakh Indians women spend nearly five hours every day on unpaid domestic work. This time duration is  98 minutes daily for men.

Why household care activities by women need to be valued?

  • First, like other work, household care work demands skill, creativity, and organization.
  • Second, The household work performed by a majority of Indian women helps to sustain households. Also, it enables men to take up productive paid jobs, without hindrance at home.
  • Third, the culture to take up unpaid care activities at home by women is one of the leading causes for their declining labour force participation. (one of the lowest in the world).
  • Fourth, It denies women an opportunity in a formal employment. For example,
      • A study by economist Ashwani Deshpande found that the gender gap in domestic work reduced during the lockdown, but widened again when many men returned to employment.
  • Fifth, it compromises the rights of women to participate in a democratic protest. For example,
      • A recent statement by SC chief justice that women farmers from Punjab should leave democratic protests and return home.

Is Paying salary for housework by the state a good decision?

The proposal will only recognize the value of women’s household care, but it will not address the following issues.

  • First, the proposal does not challenge the notion of fundamental hierarchy in  the patriarchal home. It establishes that a woman’s place is in the home.
  • Second, a salaried worker is entitled to bargain for higher wages, and exit her workplace. But, such negotiations cannot take place at home.
  • Third, a woman cannot get a fair price for her domestic works at her home. It is because the household care work is not seen as valuable in fundamental societies.

How this practice of devaluing household care work affects society?

  • Impact on marginalized people: The practice of devaluing  household care work  allows caste-privileged women and nearly all men to pass on this work to those from lower castes and the marginalized for low wages.
  • Impact on work culture: It creates a work-culture that gives preference to males. It is because they can afford to work 24×7 and can ignore the demands of the home.
  • Impact on domestic workers: It leads to low wages paid to domestic workers. It is evident from the struggle of ASHA workers.

Removing the hierarchies of patriarchy and making women independent at home will make the family a happy place.

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