• The Feminist Times

Normalising Domestic Division of Labour



How many times have we heard people including us normalising our mother's role in our upbringing? We tend to put fathers or men in general on a pedestal whenever they indulge in any household work or an activity which is considered to be out of their sphere. We tend to accentuate certain situations where we see a man performing tasks that his female counterpart has already been doing for a long time.


Women for centuries have been indulged in work that caters to taking care of their children, husband and more often their husband's family as well. There have been numerous instances when I have heard women saying "Itna kaam toh maine apne ghar mei nahi kiya jitna shaadi ke baad kiya." Why does always the 'Ghar Ki Bahu' has to shoulder every household responsibility?! Barely I have seen men working that hard whenever they visit their wife's home. Most of them are treated as someone who deserves all the attention and care that one can give because 'Ghar Ka Jamaai' has arrived. Whereas, women are always bestowed with the responsibility to impress their husband's extended family as well by their domestic skills.


As per the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, across all regions of the world, women spend on an average between three and six hours on unpaid care activities, while men spend between half an hour and two hours. Hence gender inequalities in unpaid care work are observed all around the world, even if there are regional variations. Overall, women spend more time on unpaid care activities than men representing on average two to ten times that of men’s. In India, for example, men devote 36 minutes to unpaid care responsibilities, out of which 36% goes into housework, with the remaining time spent on shopping, care for household members, and travel related to household activities. Out of the six hours women devote to unpaid care activities, the portion of time specifically spent on housework reaches 85% (Data by Gaëlle Ferrant, Luca Maria Pesando and Keiko Nowacka).


Women who are not in the workforce are seen as enjoying their leisure time at home. Everybody tends to disregard their engagement in child and elderly care, and other related tasks. The problem here lies in the fact that people tend to generalise the roles and responsibilities and treat it as a watertight compartment. The labour involved in managing a household is devalued by men and sometimes also by the women who themselves engage in it. Why is it not treated as real work?! Is it because there is no monetary value attached to it or we have accepted the traditional and unquestionable division of labour that has been existing since centuries?!


Nobody sees the emotional labour that gets into keeping the family together and working according to the patriarchal norms and practices. After all, that's what women are supposed to do which makes it their 'duty'. Primary reason is the functioning of age old discriminatory social institutions and stereotypes that exist in gender roles. What we fail to understand is that unpaid work is an indispensable factor contributing to the well-being of individuals and their families.


All these years I have had so many questions to ask but the answer to all of them has been "Harr ladki ko kaam karna padta, issmei kya badi baat hai?". In anticipation of a better and progressive perspective towards women's invisible work!!!!


- Hitakshi Narang


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