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The Share Of Women In India Who Want To Do Paid Work Is Among The Lowest In The World

The lack of help with housework might drive more women to stay at home.

08/03/2017 7:30 AM IST | Updated 08/03/2017 7:40 AM IST
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Young Indian woman sorting red chilli peppers near Jodhpur.

Just 30% of Indian women told an ILO-Gallup survey that they would prefer to work in a paid job, as compared to 41% who said that they preferred to stay at home. This was one of the lowest shares of women expressing the desire for paid work in the world.

Globally, 29% of women said that they would prefer to work in a paid job and another 41% expressed the desire for both paid work and to stay at home, while just 27% wanted to stay at home only. The only countries with a higher proportion of women who said they preferred to stay at home were in Algeria (41%), Iraq (43%), Yemen (43%), Bangladesh (46%), Pakistan (51%) and Afghanistan (56%).

The results come from the Gallup World Poll which was conducted in 142 countries and territories and surveyed almost 149,000 adults, and was representative of the global population. The joint ILO-Gallup report was released early on Wednesday morning to mark International Women's Day.

In India, 70% of women are neither working nor looking for work; only 26% of women work, largely in part time positions (21%), according to official data compiled by the ILO. The low proportion of women expressing the desire for paid work could open up a new dimension in research into the reasons behind India's low and dwindling female workforce. "Perhaps, social norms, which dictate appropriate behaviour for women and men, and social conditioning, plays a role in the gap between Indian and global responses, along with the lack of care work support facilities. But indeed this is an area that needs further research," Fernanda Barcia de Mattos, Research Officer, Employment, at the ILO in Geneva said.

Not surprisingly, work and family balance is the biggest challenge of women who work paid jobs in India (according to 28 per cent of respondents), as in the world (22 per cent). The second largest issue in India is the lack of flexible hours (21 per cent), followed by affordable care (11 per cent).

India conducted its last time-use survey in 1998-99. That survey showed that the average Indian man spent just 19 minutes a week on housework as against 298 minutes for the average Indian woman.

"Not surprisingly, work and family balance is the biggest challenge of women who work paid jobs in India (according to 28 per cent of respondents), as in the world (22 per cent). The second largest issue in India is the lack of flexible hours (21 per cent), followed by affordable care (11 per cent)," de Mattos said. A larger share of men (39%) said that they would prefer that the women in their families did paid jobs.

This diffidence manifested itself across a range of questions. When asked whether it was acceptable for any woman in the respondent's house to accept a paid job outside the home, fewer women replied in the affirmative than men in India, while the reverse was true for the rest of the world.

Younger persons were more likely to believe it was acceptable for Indian women to have jobs outside of the home; the share among those age 15-29 was 73%, relative to 68% for those 30 years old and above, the ILO found. Likewise, more educated individuals are more often in favour of women working outside of the home.

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