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Scan on homemaker toil

- Govt pursues plan to evaluate ‘invisible work’
Pay time ahead?

New Delhi, Nov. 8: Union minister Krishna Tirath has commissioned a nation-wide survey to determine how much time a woman spends on “invisible” household work, following up on her ambitious scheme to pay homemakers a percentage of their husbands’ salary for their toil.

The ministry of statistics and programme implementation will conduct the All India Time Use Survey.

A group under professor S.R. Hasim has been formed to carry out the study, which will form the basis of a law planned to compensate these unsung “home engineers”, the term for homemakers in the legislation.

Tirath, minister for women and child development, had announced plans to bring in such a law this September. Yesterday, at the first consultation meeting on “valuation of household work undertaken by women in India”, she stressed the need to recognise the role a woman plays in keeping homes humming.

“Very laborious work is done by women in rural and urban areas in various sectors as well as in the household, which helps in enhancing (labour) productivity among men too. There is a need to recognise this invisible work and value it,” she said.

Tirath has asked the ministry of statistics to evaluate the unpaid labour women put in and to include such “time use surveys” in the National Statistical System, which tabulates all-India data on labour. This form of survey is currently not used to measure household chores.

“Time use surveys once formed a valuable tool to rectify the shortcomings of labour force surveys which do not take into account… work performed by women in the domestic environment. Household work, child and elderly care, and voluntary work can be given visibility through time use surveys which collect and classify comprehensive information on how people spend their time in different activities,” said Indira Hirway.

Hirway, director and professor of economics at the Centre for Development Alternatives, Ahmedabad, was among those who attended the meeting yesterday.

Experts feel the evaluation would help quantify women’s contribution to the economy, establish their claim for inclusion in national schemes, determine their compensation in case of divorce, and, overall, empower them.

A homemaker in Delhi said she was happy the government “thinks we are important enough to be surveyed” but was not sure how it would affect family ties. “For the past 30 years I have looked after my children, my elderly in-laws and my husband. All these years their smiling faces have been my salary. I am not sure if it would have been the same if my husband had to shell out cash for the work I did,” said Suchitra Ghosh, 60.

Sheetal Jha, an advertisement executive who quit her job five years ago to raise her children, said only evaluation of unpaid labour wouldn’t help women. “What the government needs to do is intervene both legally and economically to make housewives like me financially independent. Maybe, they can begin schemes, absorb them in jobs that don’t take away the time they spend with their families. Basically, a comprehensive plan so that we feel like we are a part of the labour force of the country.”