Women’s unpaid care work must be counted
It's concerning that around 78 percent households primarily run by women have been facing acute financial distress during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, caused by sudden job losses, increased household responsibilities and, interrupted support services at work for child care. This data, published in a study titled, "Rapid Analysis of Care Work during Covid Pandemic in Bangladesh", brings to light the sorry economic realities that a large section of Bangladeshi women are experiencing due to the Covid-19 crisis.
According to the study conducted by an associate professor of economics at Jahangirnagar University, women of urban areas are spending 128 percent more time in household chores than the pre-pandemic period. Although almost 72 percent of home-makers used to spend around five hours per day doing unpaid care work before the start of the Covid-19 epidemic, 38 percent of these women have reported that hours for doing such works have shot up for them. What's more, 85 percent of women who already spend a large part of their waking hours in full-time jobs also have to spend more than four hours of regular unpaid care work when they return to their homes. These findings prove that men are still lagging behind in joining hands with women members of the household to lessen the burden on the latter by sharing everyday household work.
A report published by The Daily Star on January 18, 2016, highlights that men spend only 1.2 hours a day on average doing household work, which gives them 5.25 hours more than women to indulge in recreation or career development activities. The process of recognising the financial importance of women's unpaid care work has to take off urgently. Doing so will ramp up the country's economy too as economists have suggested in the past that the size of Bangladesh's Gross Domestic Product(GDP) can be almost doubled if women's domestic responsibilities are calculated in terms of GDP.
The government must first come to the aid of women-headed households who are in extreme financial hardship due to the pandemic. Cash and food aid must reach them fast. Moreover, the government has to initiate immediate awareness campaigns across the country promoting the point that household chores are not exclusive to women only, it applies equally to men. Most importantly, women's' economic empowerment can only be ensured through their access to and control over important resources. Being engaged with paid productive activities, women-only skills training programmes and lastly, strong and constant family support for girls to pursue their dreams of becoming educated and financially independent individuals are some of the boxes that have to be checked on a priority basis, to guarantee proper acknowledgement of women's' unparalleled contributions in keeping both their family and professional lives functioning smoothly.