'My Work Never Ends': Women Balancing Paid Work and Unpaid Care Work in India
Research showed that women’s paid work experiences were shaped by a number of factors, including: care responsibilities, social norms on women’s work; the lack of decent work options; the poor working conditions of paid work available; as well as the support structures that were available to them at the levels of family, community, employer and the state. Women performed the majority of care work tasks, with responsibility determined by an interplay of sticky gender norms and poverty conditions. There was a strong correlation between the availability of and access to public resources and services and the intensity and drudgery of care tasks as well as their experiences of paid work.
There are many positive gender- and care-responsive features of both WEE programmes. However, it clear that the existing WEE programmes have more to accomplish in order to create a ‘double boon’ for women workers. The research makes recommendations at state and non-state levels in order to make women’s economic empowerment optimal, shared across families and sustained across generations
'My Work Never Ends': Women's Experiences of Balancing Unpaid Care Work and Paid Work through WEE Programming in India
This paper seeks to lay bare the contours and consequences of the relationship between paid work and unpaid care work for women in low-income households, in order to better understand the relationship between women’s participation in paid work and ‘economic empowerment’. It is also interested in analysing whether, and if so how, women (may) achieve a positive balance between their unpaid care work and paid work responsibilities such that their economic empowerment is optimised (women’s entry into paid work is enabled without deepening their time poverty or worrying about the quality of care received by their family), shared (across generations, so that other women/girls in the family are not left to bear the burden of care), and sustained (such that the quality of care provided to children improves as a result of their mother’s paid work). The paper seeks to do this by mapping the social organisation of care in low-income households across four sites in India, and assessing how women cope with their dual burdens. By focusing our analysis on two ‘women’s economic empowerment programmes’: the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Rajasthan and the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in Madhya Pradesh, we also seek to analyse how women’s economic empowerment policy and programming can generate a ‘double boon’: paid work that empowers women and provides more support for their unpaid care work responsibilities.
A Trapeze Act: Women Balancing Paid Work and Unpaid Care Work in Nepal
Despite high rates of labour force participation by women in Nepal, there has been very little engagement by communities and the state on the issue of women’s ‘double burden’ of balancing unpaid care work with paid labour activities. The ‘Balancing paid work and unpaid care work – Nepal’ research study aims to create knowledge about how women’s economic empowerment (WEE) policy and programming can generate a ‘double boon’, i.e. paid work that empowers women and provides more support to their unpaid care work responsibilities. Research discussed in this report looks at two WEE programmes in Nepal: (1) a state programme, the Karnali Employment Programme; and (2) a non-state programme, Oxfam Nepal’s Enterprise Development Programme.
One of the stark conclusions of the study is that women are currently unable to balance their paid and unpaid care work due to several factors: the lack of availability of decent employment opportunities in rural areas; a lack of quality public resources and services; migration of men; a lack of assets such as land; and prevailing gender norms, especially around women’s participation in unpaid care work and mobility. The report makes recommendations at state, non-state, market, community and family levels. Programmes aimed at women’s empowerment need to have a care perspective in their design and implementation, and grass-roots-level communication and advocacy needs to be encouraged and implemented, in order to reduce women’s ‘double burden’ and move towards a’ double boon’.
ActionAid's Food Security and Economic Empowerment Programme in Muko Sector, Northern Rwanda: Guidelines for Achieving the Double Boon
Despite an impressive socioeconomic transformation over the past few decades, Rwanda ranks as one of the least developed countries in the world. Today, over 75 per cent of the population remain dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, of which women constitute a disproportionate majority. ActionAid Rwanda's (AAR) Improving Food Security and Economic Opportunities for Women project in Muko sector, Musanze District in the Northern Province aims to combat these intersecting deprivations. AAR’s project aims 'to enable 1,200 of the most vulnerable women smallholder farmers and 300 vulnerable male smallholder farmers to improve their food security and economic security through increased agricultural profitability'.
This note examines how the AAR programme has contributed to heightened economic empowerment amongst female beneficiaries and the extent to which it may have promoted a ‘double boon’; that is, paid work that empowers women and provides more support for their unpaid care work responsibilities, rather than a double burden of additional hard work without taking into account women’s heavy care responsibilities.
Care Responsiveness of Livelihoods Programming: The Enterprise Development Programme, Oxfam Nepal
Oxfam launched the Enterprise Development Programme (EDP) in Nepal in 2011. As a livelihoods programme, it aims to develop capabilities and markets for small rural enterprises, with a specific focus on women. The programme targets those agricultural sub-sectors that create opportunities for women at various levels, including at the levels of production, access to the market and leadership and management. This Programmatic Note examines Nepal’s EDP programme to understand how women’s economic empowerment (WEE) policy and programming can generate a ‘double boon’ – paid work that empowers women and provides more support for their unpaid care work responsibilities. It discusses what works for and what hinders a “double boon’, and makes suggestions on what steps can be taken in order to engender a double boon.
Empowerment Programming and Unpaid Care Work: Learning from 30 years of the Self Employed Women’s Association in Madhya Pradesh (SEWA MP)
This Programmatic Note examines the work of SEWA in Madhya Pradesh (SEWA MP), India, in order to understand how women’s economic empowerment (WEE) policy and programming can generate a ‘double boon’ – paid work that empowers women and provides more support for their unpaid care work responsibilities. The research found that many women had benefited from joining SEWA, due to increased access to information and services, training, better working conditions, access to the SEWA cooperative for savings and loans facilities, and a sense of empowerment emanating from the recognition of the value of the work that they do. It is recommended that order to engender a ‘double boon’, SEWA could take actions that included:
- expanding the range of training courses;
- including men in its discourses and outreach;
- creating childcare arrangements; and
- explicitly engage with the issue of unpaid care work.
Making Karnali Employment Programme More Care-Responsive
The Karnali Employment Programme (KEP) was launched by the Government of Nepal in 2006 with the slogan of ‘ek ghar ek rojgar’ (one household, one job). The aim was to provide at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment, per fiscal year, to households living in extreme poverty without any other source of income in five districts of Karnali zone. A further objective was also to create local public assets that would contribute to enhancing local livelihoods in the longer term. This Programmatic Note examines the KEP programme’s potential to achieve women’s economic empowerment that generates a ‘double boon’ – paid work that empowers women and provides more support for their unpaid care work responsibilities. The research was conducted in two sites in Jumla - Chandannath and Depalgaon. In both sites, the main source of livelihood for low-income households was subsistence agriculture and non-agricultural wage work, especially related to masonry and construction related work. Women from poor households are also engaged in multiple low-income paid work such as agricultural labour, breaking stones and vegetable farming. The research highlights factors that affect “what works for a ‘double boon’” and also “what hinders a ‘double boon’”.
Making Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) More Care-Responsive
Started as a pilot in 200 of the poorest districts of India in 2006, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is a demand-based public works programme which entitles every rural household in India to 100 days of waged employment, per fiscal year. MGNREGA envisages women’s inclusion and empowerment, equal wages at par with men, proximity of residences to worksites, and the provision of facilities such as crèches at worksites. This Programmatic Note examines MGNREGA in the districts of Dungarpur and Udaipur in Rajasthan, in order to understand how women’s economic empowerment (WEE) policy and programming can generate a ‘double boon’ - paid work that empowers women and provides more support for their unpaid care work responsibilities. The research highlights inflexible timings in MGNREGA, hard, back breaking tasks, and poor facilities at the worksite. These, taken in combination with the time-consuming and intensive care work that women need to perform in the absence of essential public services, induces high levels of drudgery in women’s lives. The note highlights women’s chronic lack of rest, physical weakness, and mental stress related to multi-tasking and managing their paid and unpaid care work responsibilities. The note makes recommendations based on the research findings on how MGNREGA could immediately take steps to transform women’s and families’ current depleting scenario to an empowering one.
Making Rwanda's Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme Public Works Care-Responsive
Rwanda's Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP), which comprises cash transfers, public works and financial services, aims to eradicate extreme poverty by 2020. Public works, the focus of the research outlined in this note, provides paid employment for extremely poor households with at least one able-bodied adult. The aim of the VUP is for the very poorest to ‘graduate’ out of poverty through the programme.
This note examines how VUP Public Works can avoid a ‘double burden’ on working women and instead generate a ‘double boon’ by providing paid work that empowers women and supports their unpaid care work responsibilities. The research was carried out using a mixed-methods approach in four sites. The focus of this note is on Simbi and Gishamvu in Huye District, where women were participating in VUP. Findings of the research show that that women strongly value paid work, prioritising income-generating opportunities over care work. Wages earned pay for a range of essential needs, such as food, education, and health-related expenses. Finally, those women who are able to balance paid work and unpaid care work benefit from family support and sharing of care responsibilities.
However the note also highlights the barriers to the ‘double boon’: VUP Public Works can intensify the double burden of paid and care work and can increase women’s time poverty, with negative consequences for women’s physical and psychosocial wellbeing; cultural gender norms still place the responsibility for household tasks with women; and the conditions of VUP Public Works – poor pay, difficult labour conditions, and distance from the worksite – all increase the drudgery of women’s work.
‘How Can It Be a Problem If You Need Them Both?’ Women Juggling Paid and Unpaid Care Work in Tanzania
This paper summarises the findings of mixed-methods research that was carried out in Tanzania. It reflects the voices and experiences of women and their household members participating in women's economic empowerment (WEE) programmes across four sites in the rural districts of Korogwe and Lushoto in Tanga region. Participants in two WEE programmes are represented, namely the state-run Women Development Fund (WDF) and Oxfam’s Food Security for Tanzanian Farmers programme. The question addressed by the research was: 'How can women's economic empowerment (WEE) policies and programmes take unpaid care work into account in order to enable women’s economic empowerment to be optimised, shared across families and sustained across generations?'
This study and its findings clearly indicate that women shoulder the majority of unpaid work and struggle to balance this with paid work responsibilities. While some tasks are shared with other household members, there is no evidence to suggest that women are in a position to redistribute unpaid care work responsibilities to the state, the market or the community. Reasons for this appear to be mainly grounded in gender norms, the lack of public provision of services that are essential for facilitating care as well as paid work, and the low returns on women’s (and men’s) paid work. This study highlights that if no explicit action is undertaken to support a rebalance – whether that is through addressing working conditions, childcare arrangements, social norms or values or otherwise – patterns of unbalance will reproduce and perpetuate themselves, offering women valuable economic opportunities that help to improve living conditions and possibly their position within household or community settings, but never stretching quite far enough to reduce drudgery and the physical and psychosocial stress of juggling too many responsibilities.