National report

A Trapeze Act: Women Balancing Paid Work and Unpaid Care Work in Nepal

Ghosh, A., Singh, A. and Chigateri, S. ,  October 2017

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’.

Working paper

A Trapeze Act: Balancing Unpaid Care Work and Paid Work by Women in Nepal

Ghosh, A.; Singh, A Chigateri, S.; Chopra, D.; Müller, C.,  November 2017

This working paper seeks to examine the relationship between unpaid care work and paid work that women in low-income households in Nepal perform, and whether, and if so how, they are able to maintain a balance between the two. It also examines the causes and consequences of the double burden on the physical and emotional wellbeing of women and their children. Further, the paper aims to create knowledge about how different stakeholders such as family, community, employers and state can contribute to women’s economic empowerment 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).

By examining women’s participation in two economic empowerment programmes – the Enterprise Development Programme (EDP) in Surkhet district and Karnali Employment Programme (KEP) in Jumla district – it also provides policy inputs on 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.

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.

Programmatic notes

Care Responsiveness of Livelihoods Programming: The Enterprise Development Programme, Oxfam Nepal 

Ghosh, Anweshaa; Singh, Anjam; Chigateri, Shraddha,  June 2017

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.

Making Karnali Employment Programme More Care-Responsive

Ghosh, Anweshaa; Singh, Anjam; Chigateri, Shraddha,  June 2017

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’”.

Policy brief

A Trapeze Act: Balancing Unpaid Care Work and Paid Work by Women in Nepal

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. This double burden has depleting consequences for both their mental and physical wellbeing, as well as those of their children. 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 for these women to move from a double burden to a “double boon”.