The Unsung Housewives

 

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The Indian economy might be the front runner in terms of GDP and economic growth in the country but will it remain the fastest growing economy forever? The recent economic survey of 2018 came up with the ‘Pink’ economic survey highlighting the gender issues prevalent in the society for a long time now.

It is very rare that women are mentioned in the Economic survey of the government but with increasing development and opportunities in the country, it is becoming a matter of concern for India in terms of employment opportunities for women. Women today have access to education and are accepted in almost every sector of the economy. Does that mean that women are becoming a major contributor to the economy? Are they directly contributing to the GDP?

The Indian government while releasing the Economic survey 2018 quoted that ‘India’s son obsession has led to unbalanced sex ratio with 63 million ‘missing’ women’. The government made sure that the survey included the problems and issues faced by women today in the country. Displaying the report in Pink cover with the slogan ‘Me too’, the government aimed to sensitize the public on how women can play an important role in the economy and their sheer commitment to empowering the women of the country.

Women were never included in any government report or survey before 2008. As they started to leave a mark in every field, they were slowly acknowledged and considered as a vital source of economic contribution. The government over the years have created various funds including Nirbhaya fund, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and Sukanya Samridhi Yojana schemes, and mandatory maternity leave rules to create more opportunities for women and open doors for them in various sectors. Despite these efforts, the percentage of women employed in the country would hardly account to 40 percent. (rough estimate)

While the government raises the women empowerment flag, it always fails to mention the unsung hero in every home who is a housewife. She is the epicenter of any family unit and a stable family unit directly contributes to the well being of the nation. It is quite disturbing to see that many nations even today ignore the contribution made by the housewife. I have come across some disturbing comments were few people from the alumni of the prestigious college considered the admission of women as the reason for falling down in the top university ranks list.

The reason that many women do not take up jobs after graduation has lead many to believe that women occupy most of the unproductive space in the economy. Lee Kuan Yew(Singapore PM- 1959-1990) believed that women must be given equal opportunities but it should be limited to certain sectors as it affects her role as a mother. His philosophy on education, employment and welfare schemes for women were way ahead of many other Asian countries.Many of his schemes and policies have often been controversial.

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He acknowledged the role played by a women as a wife and a mother and their contribution to the economy as he believed women to be equally important part of the family which is the ‘basic unit’ of the country.  The problem with many economies today is that we classify the growth of the country on the basis of productive and unproductive people. Housewives have always belonged to the unproductive category of  contribution.

Dr. Raghuram Rajan, while raising a question mark over the way gross domestic product (GDP) is calculated in the country stated that “we get growth because people are moving into different areas”. There is a thin line of demarcation between the productive and unproductive activities when it comes to computation of all activities for net growth.

To understand this, let us take the example of Chennai, a bustling metropolitan city and one of the highest GDP contributor along with many other South Indian states with increasing IT companies and industries setting their foot in the city. Young men and women migrate to these cities in search of job in such companies. These young men and women take up apartments or home on rent and hire domestic workers to help them with the chores and house cleaning. There are separate laundry centers for such people who would pay for their laundry based on the weight of the clothes. There are food and tea stalls set up near their home as many do not have the provisions or the time to cook at home. House cleaning, laundry, cooking and many such services which is performed by the housewives  become a source of GDP which was earlier quoted as ‘unproductive’.

Creating new funds or mere accessibility to new sectors of employment would not ensure women employment. The women of our country need to be acknowledged and respected rather than categorizing them as unproductive for the duties and responsibilities  they fulfill to ensure a happy family unit along with a  greater state and country on the whole.

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