‘Unpaid care work impacts girls’ school attendance’

Experts stress how women are impacted by economic inequality more than men


News Desk January 31, 2020
PHOTO: FILE

Girls who undertake a large amount of unpaid care work have been found to have lower rates of school attendance and this feeds into the crippling cycle of economic inequality between men and women.

This was disclosed by experts during a seminar on economic inequalities in the country. The seminar had been organised by Oxfam at the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA).

Council on Interior, Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Chairperson Senator Kauda Babar Baloch said that there is a need to change the mindset of the Pakistani society which is steeped in traditionalism.

“We talk of empowering women and empowering men, but we must start by changing the society’s mindset. We need to start with change at the individual level before equality can be manifested in the community,” he said.

Oxfam Pakistan Country Director Mohammed Qazilbash said that despite the critical role of women, they are not the holders of its wealth.

“Women play an integral role every day in our society yet worldwide, men own 50% more wealth than women,” he said.

“Along with doing care work for free at home, many poor women also work while providing care for others, for example as domestic workers, who are amongst the most exploited workers in the world,” he said, adding that in rural communities and low-income countries, women can spend up to 14 hours on unpaid care work, which is five times more than what the men do in these communities.

“Nearly half the world is trying to survive on $5.50 a day or less, and many people are just one hospital bill or a failed harvest away from financial ruin.”

The major reason for this, he said, was inequality since a huge share of global income growth consistently accrues to those at the top, leaving those at the bottom further and further behind.

Discussing the rise of inequality in Pakistan, economist Dr Kaiser Bengali suggested men today enjoy the benefit of women doing all the care work. “They take care of the children, elderly, cook food and a variety of other tasks that men do not have to do.”

“If men were to start doing these tasks, the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be lower. We owe it to women to recognise their work and value it,” he said.

HomeNet Executive Director Umme Laila shared concerns on the plight of women domestic workers.

“Women are expected to play traditional roles in our society. They are restricted to these roles, and it is because of these roles that we are fueling the unrecognised and unpaid care work crisis,” she said.

Circle Chief Executive Sadaffe Abid shared that ‘‘the report highlights that very soon, the demand for care workers will increase drastically. What is interesting is that one part of the world will rely on the other for doing care work. We must recognise care work and its value.”

Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Associate Dean Dr Huma Baqai highlighted the report findings and urged for action to curb the effects of the spiralling inequality and the care crisis.

Oxfam has proposed six actions to help realize the rights of carers and to start closing the gap between unpaid and underpaid care workers and the wealthy elite, who have profited most from their labour including investment in national care systems.

The actions include addressing the disproportionate responsibility for care work done by women and girls, legislation to protect the rights of all care workers, ensuring they have influence over decision-makers and securing living wages for paid care workers. Standing together to challenge harmful norms and sexist beliefs and including care work in policies to put an end to extreme poverty are also among the proposed actions. 

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2020.

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