Women’s Paid and Unpaid Work in Unorganised Sector
Gangabhushan M Molankal
Introduction: Women workers contribute significantly to national development by performing paid and unpaid work. They also struggle to combine their roles to look after their families. Women house hold workers have a double burden as there is greater demand for their skills as care-givers and service workers outside home but they also work inside home doing the same work which is unpaid. However, this unpaid labour contribution by women at family level is not recognised. The statistical organisations also miss to recognise the contribution trends of women’s work participation in the form of unpaid labour. According to an ILO estimate, the value of unpaid household work constitutes 25 to 39 percent of GNP. Women’s contribution to the economy by and large remains unrecognized. Of the three employment/activity status categories of workers recorded by the NSSO, namely, self-employed, regular salaried and casual labour, a higher proportion of the female workforce is always found to be concentrated in the ‘self-employed’. However, concealed within the aggregate figures for the self-employed is the large unpaid segment, which contributes to the production economy, but without receiving any independent payment/income for their labour. Of the three sub-categories within ‘self-employment’, the ‘own account worker’ and ‘employer’ segments receive wages/incomes. The third sub category of those who work as helper in household enterprise, are however, unpaid. Women in the unorganised sector as well as countless other women invariably also do a wide variety of “invisible” work, and often shoulder the dual burden of paid and unpaid labour. The unpaid contribution of many of these activities associated with house hold maintenance, provisioning and reproduction- which are typically performed by women or female children–tends to be ignored in calculations for labour (Sharmila Joshi, 2007). With the increasing participation of women in unorganised sector work, she is spending more time at the work site. If the conditions are bad for male workers, women suffer more managing the triple burden of work, home and childcare. Health, Workplace and family are the three components, which plays a significant role in the life of a woman. Therefore, it is necessary to study the above mentioned components and conditions of women engaged in unorganised sector. Though the work of women is treated as manual and monotonous, still they are not less burdened with that of male workers. Stress at the work site and manual work at home which is unpaid work has compounded the problem of women’s health. The patriarchal attitude, gender discrimination, work nature and other problems faced at work place and home may contribute to her low self-image in her mind. In view of the above, the paper is an outcome of a primary study conducted (in Barak Valley of Assam) to bring forward the paid and unpaid work burden of women engaged in brick kiln industry. Objectives: To understand gender based division of work both in work place and the household; to evaluate the impact of work environment and unpaid household work burden on the perceived health of women labourers. Methodology: The subjects for the study constituted 300 women brick kiln workers drawn from 30 selected brick kiln industries situated in the three districts of Barak Valley (namely Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj), Assam. A multi stage stratified random sampling technique was adopted for selecting 10 brick kiln industries. From each industry 10 women workers were selected purposively. Thus a total of 300 women were interviewed using interview schedules. Main Findings: Workers in the Brick kiln industry comprise one of the poorest and weakest segments of the society. The vulnerability of these women can be manifested in terms of practicing discriminatory wages, lack of childcare facilities at the work place. Paid and unpaid work load is also posing threat to women’s physical and mental health. Given the strenuous nature of work with no commensurate wage rates, the uncertainty, and appalling working conditions coupled with childcare burden makes the women the worst sufferers. For the women workers in the brick kiln industry the present occupational profile, the gender based division of labour and the working conditions, all add to their deteriorating health. This in turn takes a toll on their health and working capacity and productivity.