Publications and other research outputs

National report

'My Work Never Ends': Women Balancing Paid Work and Unpaid Care Work in India

Zaidi, Mubashira; Chigateri, Shraddha,  October 2017

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

Working paper

'My Work Never Ends': Women's Experiences of Balancing Unpaid Care Work and Paid Work through WEE Programming in India 

Zaidi, M.; Chigateri, S.; Chopra, D. and Roelen, K.,  September 2017

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.

Are Women Not ‘Working’? Interactions between Childcare and Women’s Economic Engagement

Chopra, D.; Saha, A.; Nazneen, S. and Krishnan, M. ,  January 2020
IDS WORKING PAPER 533 cover page

This paper seeks to examine how childcare impacts upon women’s economic engagement in India, Nepal, Tanzania, and Rwanda. In delineating the linkages between childcare, paid work, and other tasks that women carry out within and outside the house, this paper privileges women’s own perceptions of childcare as ‘work’, and the extent to which they see this as a tension between women’s caregiving role and their income-generating role. Our findings corroborate that women experience significant trade-offs as they engage in both market activities and childcare tasks. We highlight the important distinction between direct and supervisory childcare – with supervisory childcare taking up a large amount of women’s time across all contexts. In bringing women’s voices to the fore of the prevalent discourse of childcare being a ‘barrier’ to women’s paid work, this paper highlights the complex and bidirectional relationship between childcare and women’s economic engagement. Our analysis shows that for women from lower-income households, the effect of childcare on women’s engagement in paid work (hours, location, type, or nature of work) is mediated by different factors: (a) the economic condition of the household; (b) the availability of alternative care arrangements; (c) the household structure and; (d) alternative options (for both men and women) for paid work. This research highlights how complex and constrained women’s choices are, in a context of low-paid jobs and lack of support for childcare from other institutional actors, and how women posit childcare as a positive and desirable experience.

Policy brief

From Double Burden of Women to a “Double Boon”: Balancing Unpaid Care Work and Paid Work

Women in paid work from low income families are engaged in poorly paid, precarious employment, even as they are overburdened with unpaid care work responsibilities. For women in these contexts to move from a double burden to a “double boon”, women’s economic empowerment programmes have to both improve the options and conditions of women’s paid work and recognise, reduce and redistribute their unpaid care work burdens.

Programmatic notes

Empowerment Programming and Unpaid Care Work: Learning from 30 years of the Self Employed Women’s Association in Madhya Pradesh (SEWA MP)

Mubashira Zaidi, Shraddha Chigateri, DeeptaChopra,  August 2017

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:

  1. expanding the range of training courses;
  2. including men in its discourses and outreach;
  3. creating childcare arrangements; and
  4. explicitly engage with the issue of unpaid care work.

Making Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) More Care-Responsive

Zaidi, Mubashira; Chigateri, Shraddha; Chopra, Deepta (Ed.) ,  August 2017

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.

Hindi comic strips share the message

As part of the uptake for this research, the Alliance for Right to Early Childhood Development in India have created two comic strips exploring the importance of women's work and recognition for womens unpaid work. In Hindi, with translations in English.