Demystifying Data: A Gendered Lens on Time-Use Patterns


by Bushra Ansari | 28 March, 2024
Demystifying Data: A Gendered Lens on Time-Use Patterns
Author Bushra Ansari | Published: 01 April, 2024
Demystifying Data: A Gendered Lens on Time-Use Patterns

How do women in India spend their time? Apart from paid work, community activities, cultural engagements, religious practices, volunteering, and sports, many women spend a significant amount of time on household duties. The data points to a significant gender influence here - women predominantly shoulder unpaid responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, and caregiving, while men are generally more engaged in paid work.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) reports that globally, men spend an average of 83 minutes per day on unpaid care work, while women devote three times more time with 265 minutes. In India, the gender gap is even more pronounced, women spend 297 minutes daily on unpaid care work, compared to men who spend only 31 minutes. India's first Time Use Survey (TUS), conducted by the National Statistical Organization (NSO) in 2019, gives us more insight into this gender gap.

1. The average time women spend on unpaid work is 7.3 times that of men

The average time women spend on unpaid work is 7.3 times that of men

*TUS activity classification as per International
Classification of Activities for Time Use Statistics 2016 (ICATUS 2016)

The gender disparity in time allocation is the highest with regard to time spent on unpaid domestic work and caregiving services, followed by employment and related activities. The ILO estimates that unpaid care work is amongst the most critical barriers preventing women from joining and remaining in the workforce. This disproportionate burden of unpaid care work creates “time poverty”, which limits women’s ability to engage in paid work and acquire the skills they need for better job opportunities.

2. The highest duration of time women dedicate to paid employment is observed in the western and southern areas

The highest duration of time women dedicate to paid employment is observed in the western and southern areas

According to a report titled "Viewport 2022: Top Cities for Women in India", which analysed Indian cities on four metrics – women's ease of living, women's safety, women’s representation rate in employment and women’s empowerment initiatives, the South and West regions attract more women, with average scores of 46.17 and 41.13, respectively. North Indian cities rank third (36.03), followed by the Central (31.17) and East (29.43) regions.

In the southern states of India, women's participation in regular jobs is higher compared to the northern states due to a highly educated society and women's freedom in decision-making. On the other hand, North India tends to be more patriarchal and feudal, leading to more restrictions on women's behaviour, and limited access to work opportunities.

3. The north-eastern regions showcase the least disparity in time allocation for household work between women and men

94.6% of total reported deliveries were institutional in year 2021-2022

The northeastern states, known for having societies with a more gender-neutral outlook, have higher male participation in domestic household work compared to other regions of the country. For example, the existence of matrilineal societies in Meghalaya, where children receive their mother's last name, husbands move into their wife's home, and the youngest daughters inherit the ancestral property.

Women in the northeast dominate public spaces. Women of all age groups can be found running small and big businesses. Asia's largest all-women 'Mother's Market' is in Manipur, where only married, divorced, or widowed women set up stalls to sell everything from daily essentials to fancy items.

4. Cleaning and cooking show the most pronounced gender gap in household tasks

Cleaning and cooking show the most pronounced gender gap in household tasks

Most households prefer home-cooked meals; thus, it is not surprising that a major part of women's time is allocated to cooking. Cooking has been associated with the female identity and ascribed gender roles, so much so that men in India are seldom encouraged to learn how to cook.

Social norms dictate that women perform unpaid labour. The consequences for straying from the norm can be harsh. OXFAM India’s 2019 household care survey found that one in three respondents thought it acceptable to beat a woman for failing to care well for the children or for not attending to a dependent, ill or adult member in the household.

Women in India often have to juggle multiple responsibilities, which can lead to stress, burnout, and a lack of time for themselves. It is important to address the gender divide in household duties and paid employment to create a more equitable society for women in India. This can be done by challenging traditional gender roles, providing more economic opportunities for women, and challenging social norms. For instance, in Jharkhand, a workforce of over 50,000 skilled women masons has defied stereotypes by building toilets under Swatch Bharat Mission, contributing significantly to the state's attainment of open-defecation-free status.

Additionally, accessible crèches would reduce the time and energy women have to spend on childcare. Similarly, schemes to ensure the availability of drinking water (Jal Jeevan Mission) and cooking gas (Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana) would reduce the time women have to spend on collecting water and firewood. Moreover, steps to ensure women’s right to property and assets can help provide them with financial security and recognise their contribution to the household.

Bushra Ansari is a Data Analyst at ISDM DataSights, supported by Capgemini.

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