Is the Contribution of Women In The Economy A Joke?

Shaugat Ashraf Khan 

Mrs. Rebeka is an educated housewife. Her day typically starts at 6 in the morning. She has to make breakfast and prepare her children for school. Her husband takes his lunch with him at the office. So, she also needs to prepare lunch for him. All she does the whole day is to take care of her ‘sansar’ (family). She is ‘the best mom’ according to her beautiful children. Sometimes she stops for a moment and tries to find a different Rebeka, who is a statistics graduate with a brilliant academic career in the past. But all she can find is a woman working enthusiastically to make everyone around her smile.  

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a widely used economic indicator that measures the size of the economy and provides an economic snapshot of a country. GDP is a better measure of well-being among other indicators, if not the best. One of the major shortcomings of GDP is that it does not account for the domestic unpaid works by people like Rebeka. Women play a significant role in domestic works, putting a lot of effort into raising their kids and maintaining families. There is no way of measuring the monetary value of their contribution to the family. At the same time, these women are not considered in the labor force. As a result, the contribution of such a great portion of women’s works has no reflection on the country’s GDP and the national economy.  

There is also a social aspect involved here. Other members of the family take women’s contributions as granted. The homemakers do not get any valuation or special appreciation for their relentless works that help the male counterparts run the family smoothly. Instead, they are sometimes harshly criticized by their husbands or in-laws.  

South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) – a renowned non-profit research organization in Bangladesh carried out a study in association with Manusher Jonno Foundation and UK Aid to get an insight into the contribution of unpaid domestic works by both male and female if accounted for in the national economy. They used satellite accounts that involve the time spent on unpaid domestic works and the monetary valuation of those works. Activities such as – cleaning, laundry, cooking, household maintenance, childcare, eldercare, etc. were considered unpaid domestic works. The study revealed that the value of unpaid domestic works by women was 39.52 percent of the fiscal year 2016-17’s GDP. Women accounted for 81.4 percent of the total monetary value of unpaid domestic works. It is evident that the contribution of women in unpaid domestic works is of great significance for the economy at large.  

In our country, there is a lack of care-related facilities that induce women to take responsibility and make it difficult for them to enter into the mainstream labor market. The study by SANEM also pointed out some key challenges of Including unpaid & unaccounted domestic work in GDP. Firstly, the idea of including women’s unpaid domestic works in GDP is not widely recognized. Besides, there are multiple challenges regarding the proper methodology of quantifying the contribution and the availability of adequate data.  

Experts recommended that care services should be brought into the mainstream market mechanism. Investment in infrastructure should be made and a gender-friendly environment in both educational institutions and workplaces have to be ensured.  

From now on, let us start recognizing and appreciating her work for which she never gets any payment and not even asks for it. Let us feel the importance of her work in every bit of our life.

Can we all agree to go and tell her, “Your works are priceless and we feel absolutely privileged for that.”?  

Reference:  

SANEM (2019, November). Recognition of Women’s Unaccounted Work in National GDP and Its Inclusion in Gender Responsive Budgeting. Analysis presented at a national dialogue organized by SANEM and Manusher Jonno Foundation, Dhaka. 

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