Friday, 8 March 2013

ON WOMEN AND WORK

It all started for me last year in April when something, I don't remember what, prompted me to post this Facebook status:

https://www.facebook.com/varshajoshi95/posts/321251154608165

This elicited a lot of discussion among my friends as can be seen. For anyone who doesn't want to read through all the comments on the post, I would hasten to clarify that I quickly realised that what I had actually wanted to say is "a world designed for women and children too", not quite "a world designed by women", which was rather presumptive in assuming that men weren't capable of designing a world convenient for women and children, though it did bring out the fact that the existing world has been designed by men with very little thought on this subject.

Well, in July 2012 came Anne Marie Slaughter's now legendary article, which kickstarted a conversation that had been waiting to happen for decades- Why Women Still Can't Have It All

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/

The tempo in this conversation is yet to slacken, and in fact is gathering traction every day.

Today morning my friend  Meeta Sengupta, came up with the idea of starting a conversation on the valuation of the kind of unpaid work that housewives have been traditionally expected to do for generations, and- who knows?- maybe even having it added to GDP, or having it as a part of a new measure of productivity, prosperity,and well being, in the near future. I was too happy to join in with her.

We shared some ideas, which are now posted on her blog here,

http://meetawsengupta.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/valuing-the-unvalued/

It may well be asked why one should take the trouble of measuring things which are by definition unpaid, i.e. what is the economic value of conducting such a valuation?

It is established that getting women into education and into the workplace adds tremendous value, a couple of first-item-off-google links which I was prompted to look for by some Men's Rights Activists on Twitter an hour back (and I'm really grateful to the MRAs for making me look for evidence for things or analyse data to refute their entertaining but bizarre and horrifically wrong claims) will show that they indeed do:

Women doing well in higher education
http://www.thelantern.com/mobile/campus/women-do-better-in-college-study-says-1.2828605

Women adding value to companies
http://articles.latimes.com/2012/aug/01/business/la-fi-mo-women-board-performance-20120801

If we want to get more women into higher education and into high value, full time work, we simply have to bring about institutional mechanisms to

  1. make it easier for men in a household to share in the housework and caregiving
  2. free people from unnecessary housework
  3. create public support systems for caregiving
  4. allow all workers, men and women, to have enough time for their family and personal life.

These will have costs, of course.

The fact however is that many countries and many companies are finding the investments that these steps require to be worthwhile.

This is a piece dated 1990 about the day care system in France written by none other than Hillary Clinton.
http://www.nytimes.com/1990/04/07/opinion/in-france-day-care-is-every-child-s-right.html

This is a piece showing that Quebec's equally comprehensive childcare programme is economically viable
http://www.childcareontario.org/?p=4603

There are many other ideas on the subject which have tended to have been broached and then ignored.
They are not necessarily "impractical" or difficult to implement".
Further, in the midst of ongoing fears that leaning too much in favour of women's rights would lead to a breakdown of the family or the institution of marriage, for example,  http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-03-02/india/37389697_1_live-in-relationships-sexual-offence-sexual-consent
These are the kind of steps which can revitalise these very institutions while making the economy stronger than ever.

This Women's Day, I think the time for thinking through and implementing such ideas has come.




1 comment:

  1. Don't know what link or links had me stumble upon this article.
    Three Women's Day later, I wonder where the author stands on these points?

    Reading through this article, Anne's post and the Facebook comments, actually takes me through my 7 years as a work-from-home Dad.
    Enough thoughts to write a blog about, but enough guts.

    In that context, I must appeal to all woman writers writing in the urban context to consider a few points:
    1. These problems are faced by any full time worker who is also the prime child care giver
    2. Globally (especially in the US), many organizations make work-from-home a mandatory feature now. My friend works in an IT company in San Francisco where the seats available are 20% of the number of employees hired.

    If there is a permanent gender neutral forum dealing with this in India, do add me in.

    ReplyDelete