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Murthy Sir, Did You Forget The Reality Of Indian Women’s Lives When Proposing A 60 Hr Work Week?

Posted: May 4, 2020

NRN Murthy wants Indians to work 60 hours a week to revive the economy. Did he forget the unpaid care work by women on which the economy is supported?

Coronavirus is the threat that the entire world is facing right now. It has hit all the sectors of life. The most affected is the health and the economy. In response to the economy slow down Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy shared his thoughts in an interview with ET Now.

He said ‘We should take a pledge that we will work ten hours a day, six days a week – as against 40 hours a week – for the next 2-3 years so that we can fast-track and grow the economy much faster.’

How like a man to forget about unpaid labour!

Now just like any other man Mr Murthy forgot to consider women’s unpaid care work before suggesting this office schedule.

We have often heard men say that ‘what do women do’, ‘life is so much full of comfort for women’ ‘ghar pe reh ke aakhir karti kya hai?’ (what work do women do by staying at home?).

But we never realize that the work at home which women do is also work, often not counted as such. No matter how much we talk about equality in households work, in most households it’s often the ‘ghar ki bahu jo ghar sambhalti hai’. (the daughter-in-law is meant to take care of the house).

Even if a woman is “allowed to work” after marriage, in the eyes of the society she still is supposed to manage the house single-handedly. Sadly, people assume that this household work just doesn’t require any time, effort or energy at all. Hence it is unpaid household work.

Maybe that’s what makes people like Narayan Murthy think that we are capable of working 60 hours a week to revive the country’s economy.

Unpaid care work is also work

When we talk about work, an image of people in formal clothes working in big companies and smashing their heads on laptops is what crosses our mind. What we often neglect is the unpaid labour that women do.

Now according to CEO of Oxfam India Amitabh Behar, ‘“Unpaid care work refers to all unpaid labour performed (mostly by women and girls) in households such as looking after the elderly, the children and the indisposed as domestic work including cleaning, cooking and washing, among others.”

As per the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Women in India spend around five hours a day on unpaid care work while men devote a mere half an hour on average.

So with the paid work many women out there also manage the unpaid care work. Hence working this long may sound doable for me. Expecting the same from women and then also expecting them to do 6 Hours of unpaid care work, because ghar ka kaam bahu nahi karegi, saas-sasur seva nahi karegi to bahu kis kaam ki (daughter-in-law holds the responsibility to take care of the house) is not acceptable.

Our economy stands on unpaid care work; yet not relevant?

Narayan Murthy’s comments show how we just don’t keep women needs in our minds when we talk about the economy. Obviously ‘Desh ka bhar to mardo ke kandho par hai’ right? (the responsibility of a country’s economy lies in the shoulders of men’

It’s not just Narayan Murthy, in fact, it’s a known fact that our economy stands on a very sexist foundation. This works in three ways.
~ Due to this unpaid care work, women have often been pushed away from economic opportunities and hence, do not benefit equally from the wealth generated by our economies.
~ The disproportionate burden of unpaid care work by women means they end up losing out on opportunities to participate in paid labour.
~ Men take advantage of women’s unpaid work at home that supports their longer work hours at their jobs, and this is normalised.

According to a report in Hindustan Times, women and girls put in 3.26 billion hours of unpaid care work every single day in India. Which constitutes to be about at least 10 per cent of India’s GDP. When calculated in actual terms this means women’s unpaid labour contributes INR 19 lakh crore of the GDP. This money is three times the revenue of Reliance Industries, as per 2018-19 data.

Still, it’s never taken into consideration because after all, what do women do, right? Men don’t go to work and the economy is closed, big offices don’t work and the economy is closed. Well, what we don’t see is how everyone is working diligently and doing the unpaid care work right now. But it’s not recognized by economists becasue it’s women’s unpaid labour.

Unpaid care work is the hidden engine that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses, and societies moving. It’s high time now that it is recognized.

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