[Answered] Discuss the impact of unpaid work on the Indian economy. How does the undervaluation of such work affect the economic participation and empowerment of women? Suggest measures to ensure that women’s contributions are recognized and supported to boost overall economic growth.

The Indian economy is greatly impacted by unpaid labour, which includes childcare, housework, and other domestic duties. Women are disproportionately affected by the undervaluation of this type of labour. India’s first national Time Use Survey released in 2020 by the National Statistical Office, finds that 81.2% of all women are engaged in unpaid domestic services, compared with 26.1% of men.

Impact of Unpaid Work on the Indian Economy

  • Reduced Labour Force Participation: Unpaid work, which predominantly falls on women, often prevents them from participating in paid employment. This results in a lower percentage of women in the formal labour force, which can limit economic growth potential.  Women’s labour force participation rate (FLFPR) in India is 32.8% according to government sources and 24% according to the World Bank, compared to China’s 61%, Bangladesh’s 38%, Nepal’s 29% and Pakistan’s 25%.
  • Loss of Productive Time: The time spent on unpaid work, such as cooking, cleaning, and caregiving, could otherwise be used for income-generating activities. This leads to an opportunity cost for women who could be engaged in more productive work.
  • Gender Pay Gap: Unpaid work reinforces the gender pay gap as women’s labor in the household is not recognized or remunerated. This leads to economic disparities and a lack of financial independence for many women.

Undervaluation of Unpaid Work and Women’s Economic Participation

  • Invisible Economic Contribution: Unpaid labour is frequently seen as a social norm rather than an economic activity. Eg, caring and home duties. Because of this, women’s contributions are not taken into account by conventional economic criteria, contributing to their economic invisibility. According to an SBI report women’s unpaid work plays a vital role in the economy & is responsible for 7.5% of GDP.
  • Lack of Economic Empowerment: By excluding women from the respect and privileges that come with official employment, the undervaluation of unpaid labour restricts women’s ability to achieve economic empowerment. This makes gender disparities in wealth and income even worse.

Measures to Recognize and Support Women’s Contributions:

  • Childcare and Eldercare Services: Investing in affordable and accessible childcare and eldercare services can reduce the burden of unpaid care work, allowing women to participate more fully in the labour force. Eg, National Creche Scheme provides child care services.
  • Financial Inclusion: Promote women’s financial inclusion through access to bank accounts, microfinance, and entrepreneurship opportunities, enabling them to generate income from their skills and talents.

Conclusion                                                   

By recognizing and supporting the contributions of women, both in unpaid and paid work, & developing a robust health and education system India can unlock the economic potential of its female population, reduce gender inequalities, and drive more inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

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