The Financial Express

Women's household work in GDP  

| Updated: October 25, 2017 00:54:16

Women's household work in GDP   

Common sense is now very uncommon. So is the case with  women's unpaid work. Though their contributions are obvious and palpable they sadly await recognition in a tangible form.


The  UNDP, the World Bank, Women's rights platforms, think tanks and advocacy groups have been harping on  the agenda with  routine regularity. This is  happening both at  the global and national   levels with the result that there's no dearth of   sensitisation about the issue.  Only  action is lacking on the part of  countries being  apparently unsure about the methodology of computing  women's unpaid work into the national accounting system.


The answer   lies in what is known as   satellite  accounts whereby India, Mexico and South Africa estimate women's  household work in the economy. "Satellite accounts provide a framework linked to the central accounts enabling attention to be focused on a certain field or aspect of economic or social life in the context of national accounts." Common examples are  satellite accounts for the environment, or tourism or unpaid housework.


It is a term developed by the UN to measure the size of economic sectors that are 'not designed as industries in the national accounts. 'Non-market products like  defence and education services provided by the government  may belong to this category.


The latest to add his voice to the cause of  recognizing and estimating women's unpaid domestic work in the GDP is Selim Jahan, director of the Human Development Report Office  of the UNDP.


Where the matter  acquires stupendous relevance is that it is intertwined with  gender discrimination and  human rights issues  on the one hand and human resource development on the other.



'Women do 80 per cent of the agriculture work but they  own less than 10 per cent of  land.' Of the total time spent on non-market work women contribute 89 per cent while men a  miniscule 11 per cent. Men have 12 per cent more leisure than women.


The devaluation of women's productive input into the economy 'weakens women's position and creates defective policy'. Unless women's non-market work is monetised  and added to the GDP,  miscalculations will continue to occur.


Thankfully, substantial amount of  research material is available to  enable us  to make a preliminary quantitative and qualitative  appraisals of women's contributions  to  economy ,social good and welfare in general. Tania Haque (1989-90) of the department of women and gender studies at Dhaka University put  the value of women's work at TK 638 billion. A vast majority of women work  16 hours a day and at that rate they put in about 771.2 million hours a year. The output is worth between  US$ 69.81 and US$ 91 billion. And if it were added to the GDP, its size would  have  doubled.


The fact of the matter is that tangible recognition of their work including a swathe of care-giving and child-rearing activities they perform can be  an overarching gesture of goodwill  to our daughters, siblings, spouses or mothers. Whereas  the status of women is coiled up in all sorts of discriminatory webs, the way to untangle their entrenched situation is to elevate their position by valuing women's contribution to the economy .


The layers of gender  discriminations may take time to wither away; but in accelerating the process, monetisation of women's  household ,economic ,caring and child-rearing activities can work  as a powerful catalyst. It can act as a silver bullet  for the culture and mindset changes that we have been looking forward to.                   

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