Eco Survey says need to measure women’s unpaid domestic work

New Delhi: The common narrative of Indian women’s low (Labour Force Participation Rate) LFPR misses the reality of working females integral to the economy of the household and the country, the Economic Survey for 2022-23 said.

There is a need to broaden the horizon of measuring work, which constitutes the whole universe of productive activities alongside employment.

According to the latest ILO standards, limiting productive work to labour force participation is narrow and only measures work as a market product.

It does not include the value of women’s unpaid domestic work, which can be seen as expenditure-saving work such as collecting firewood, cooking, tutoring children, etc., and contributes significantly to the household’s standard of living, the Economic Survey said.

Thus, a wholesome measurement of “work” may require improved quantification through redesigned surveys.

That said, there is further significant scope to nullify the gender-based disadvantages to enable free choice of women to join the labour market. Ecosystem services, including affordable creches, career counselling/handholding, lodging and transportation, etc., can further help unlock the gender dividend for inclusive and broad-based growth.

Use of overly broad categories clubbing productive work (collection of firewood, poultry farming, etc.) with domestic duties can in one sweep shift a significant proportion of women in the labour force into the out-of- labour-force category, the Survey said.

For example, unless the production of primary goods is identified as the main activity by the respondent, the PLFS questionnaire would categorize women who do both domestic activities and primary goods production/collection into out-of-the-labour-force.

Adding the proportion of women in Activity code 93 to the official LFPR yields an “Augmented Female LFPR” of 46.2 per cent for FY21 for ages 15 years and above, much higher than the 32.5 per cent estimated by the conventional definition (PLFS data for usual status).

A similar attempt has been made in an International Labour Organisation (ILO) research paper20, arriving at a female LFPR of 56.4 per cent in India for 2012, against the far lower official estimate of 31.2 per cent for 2012, the Survey said.


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