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Occupation Of A Housewife: Will Homemakers Be Forever Tagged As An Unpaid Productive Resource?

Blame it on patriarchal, political or social order, but history bears witness that women have always been seen as passive humans and the silent process of female subjugation still continues today and compels them to believe that the suffering they go through, and the discrimination they face is natural.

It is not just about upbringing, society or religion, even the language used has contributed to discrimination against women. Ask any man what your wife does, and there is a high chance you will hear them say, 'She does nothing, she is just a HOUSEWIFE.

Really? Does becoming a housewife or homemaker means doing no work at all? Well, research says otherwise. 'In India, housewives are the largest workforce in the country who works 24*7 without questioning and in return paid nothing... As a result, there is mental exhaustion of insecurities of not having freedom of doing things her way both financially and morally.'

How ironic it is that when a man helps out with household chores, he is seen as a role model, and yet when a woman engages herself in the same role day after day, tirelessly, they are taken for granted!

A 2019 report released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation showed that on average, women spend 299 minutes a day on unpaid domestic services for household members as compared to 97 minutes spent by men on average.

Occupation Of A Housewife

'So, what are you doing?' - Another common question in a social gathering and if by any chance you mention that you are a 'housewife, it will be interpreted as 'you are basically not doing anything'.

According to the Oxford dictionary, a 'housewife' is a woman whose main occupation is caring for her family, managing household affairs, and doing housework, while her husband or partner goes out to work.

Well, what it doesn't say is that it is around them that each family revolves and they are the pillars of the Indian economy. While millions in this nation are living like this and the women who have landed themselves a job that pays, their percentage is extremely low in comparison to men.

Let us just take into account the unpaid tasks that housewives do on a daily basis- purchasing groceries, shopping, finance planning, babysitting, caregiving, providing psychological help, tutoring, gardening, laundry, nursing, cleaning and cooking. And all these remain unseen and unaccounted for forever. As a result, women's ability to participate in the labour market is constrained by their higher allocation of time to unpaid reproductive work.

Yet when it comes to labour, men become supreme and women become subjugated. Imagine sacrificing all your needs, and wishes for the love, care and support of your family and getting stuck in that one-dimensional system forever. And when you whine about your leave policies and stress at your workplace, does it flash across your mind how it feels like to have a full-time job without leaves and pay?

According to the first-ever estimates of gender inequality in global earnings presented in the World Inequality Report 2022, men in India capture 82% of labour income, while women earn just 18%.

Will Homemakers Be Forever Tagged As An Unpaid Productive Resource?

We have Article 14 of the Indian Constitution that 'talks about equal status or equality before the law. Every person has equal status before the law and the State cannot deny it.' And yet the contribution made by different individuals at different levels on both macro and micro economic scales remains unrecognized.

According to a report from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 1,64,033 people have committed suicide in 2021. 'Of females who committed suicides, the highest number (23,178) was of house-wives followed by students (5,693) and daily wage earners (4,246),' the same report said.

Chances are that the numbers would have gone up if all families had reported such incidents to the police, unfortunately, that will never be the case.
So, where do we stand globally? According to a study conducted by The Lancet, out of every five women, nearly two who commit suicide are Indians. It further revealed that the majority of these Indian women were below 35 years of age, and more likely to be married.

With early marriages leading to teen motherhood, and lack of education leading to financial dependence, these women not only deal with low social status but become susceptible to domestic violence as well. Not, all women love to dedicate their lives to looking after their families (only) some are forced to. Unfortunately, this problem needs to be acknowledged first, in order to get solved.

In 2010, the Supreme Court of India said, 'Housewives are an invaluable unpaid resource and definitely not unproductive.' It also said that 'The gratuitous services rendered by wife/mother to the husband and children cannot be equated with the services of an employee and no evidence or data can possibly be produced for estimating the value of such services.'

A woman's hardwork in the household helps a man to be productive and contribute to the economy, and yet their effort goes unsung or unnoticed. There are about 160 million homemakers in India who tackle myriad stressful tasks and are unpaid and overworked often to the point of death.

Story first published: Thursday, January 19, 2023, 23:30 [IST]
Read more about: women economy gender equality
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