Activists call for reforms in labour laws and state policies to include ‘care work’ as a key component of national development
New Delhi: Over 40 researchers, scholars, media and activists are contributing their views on the topic of unpaid and underpaid care work in India to an audience of about 140 concerned women and men.
The two day convention aptly named "Who Cares?” highlights the issues faced by women and girl children in particular who are forced into domestic/unpaid and underpaid work thus affecting their education, their health, their ability to earn and other life opportunities .
According to Sehjo Singh, Director, Programmes, ActionAid India “The time has come for women's work to be counted and understood better-be it through monetisation, institutionalisation or sharing of work. We have to understand these issues which are enmeshed in the patriarchy /caste and class and subsidising both state and private profit.
Padma Bhushan recipient and senior feminist economist Devaki Jain discussed the political economy of unpaid care work. According to her the 3 Cs (Caring, cleaning and childcare) need to be included in the official economic statistics.
“The home should be recognised as the workplace. Housing should become a public good provided by the state like factories for factory workers. In fact home based work is the biggest category of occupation amongst women in India. Basic services and facilities, for example a community centre, can make a big difference.” Said Ms. Jain.
According to Chirashree Das Gupta, Associate Professor, School of Liberal studies called for an official recognition of this form of work and the role of women in it.
“Care work has been done predominantly by women. Labour hierarchies are not constructed the same way across the world. Unpaid care workers are at the bottom of the labour hierarchy. No society can survive even for a day if all the women decide to stop doing this care work even for a single day and yet it is at the bottom of the pyramid.”
The need for valuation of this kind of work, the state’s role in providing adequate infrastructure and the need to draw awareness to the plight of unpaid and underpaid care workers are some of the areas that were discussed.
"It is important that laws and policies are looked through the care lens. MNREGA is a classic example. In Tamil Nadu and Kerala, crèches provided by the State meant that more women benefited from it, " added Sudeshna Sen Gupta from Mobile Crèche who spoke at the conference.
From the impact of unpaid care on women and girls, to the role of the media in ‘sharing the care load’, the various panel discussions will draw in a diverse and macro understanding of the issue and push the agenda forward for the case of care workers.
"We are all here in solidarity to create a better understanding of how to move ahead in theory and practice. Basic things like universal child care, health and education proper nutrition to reduce disease burden, reducing drudgery of household work, checking degradation of commons for fodder, fuel and water all constitute . Do we give a thought as to the additional burden of change that we put on the shoulders of these women in the social and economic revolution? " said Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, ActionAid India.
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Saroj Kumar Pattnaik
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