Sarada Lahangir

News Highlights

  • OXFAM India estimates that 17 million women lost their job in April 2020

  • Millions of women are under stress due to increased domestic functioning owing to the pandemic

  • NCW received 1477 complaints of domestic violence between March 25 and May 31, 2020 alone

  • 60% women in the age group of 15 to 59 are engaged in full-time domestic work in India

Subasini, 24, hails from Bhanjanagar of Ganjam district and works here in Bhubaneswar as a cook in three houses. She earns about Rs 6000 per month. Her husband, who was running a street food shop, has become unemployed due to Corona last year. His temporary shop was also demolished by the Municipality couple of months ago. The entire family burden has fallen squarely on Subasini. Somehow she could manage the house, her husband and three years old son.

“I did not have any experience working as a maid or cook. My husband had a small shop and he was managing the show. But since last year, we have been facing a lot of problems. My husband has borrowed Rs 15,000 for his business but due to the Corona crisis, we could not repay it. My husband got frustrated due to this and started beating me whenever in stress. He sometimes goes out and doesn’t return for days without even bothering that what I will feed to my son. I had no option but to work in others’ houses as I have to feed my child,” Subasini lamented.

Like Subasini, 75 years old Janha from Baliguda is also a victim of Corona crisis and working as a maid in Bhubaneswar. Janha‘s husband was working in a garment factory in Surat. Last year, due to Corona, the factory got closed and Jahna husband lost his job. The couple came to Bhubaneswar and tried to do something but they failed. So, finally Janha works as a Maid in a couple of houses and her husband is cleaning cow dung and cow shed of a family. Like Subasini and Janha, there are many women whom I met only to find them struggling with the double burden due to Corona crisis and making them more vulnerable.

The Corona pandemic is a challenge for governments around the world but something that is making it even more frightening is the fact that it is threatening to deepen the existing gender inequalities, shattering prospects for women's progress on all fronts. The uneven distribution of unpaid care work worsening during the Pandemic, posing economic, social and psychological threat for women. In India, being the third largest economy in Asia where gender gap is already there which plays a role in employment, wages and education, it is more prominently visible. In India women population is 49 percent but it contributes only 18 percent to its economic output comparing to the half of the global average.

India has imposed its longest lockdown on March 24, 2020 to break the chain of Coronavirus. This lockdown confined its 130 crore of Indian population at one go. This majorly impacted to our economy as a whole. However, when the Indian economy was slowly coming back to the track, the second wave of Corona once again shattered everyone posing more challenges for all of us, especially women. This lockdown and shutdown left many people unemployed and millions of people have been pushed into poverty and food insecurity with pathetic health care system posing more threat for survival.

According to the report of OXFAM (a non-Govt organization), women lost more than 64 million jobs globally during last year- a 5 percent loss, compared to 3.9 percent loss for men. Globally, women are over-represented in low-paid, precarious sectors, such as retail, tourism and food services, that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. Across South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, the majority of women work in informal employment. Women also make up roughly 70 percent of the world’s health and social care workforce -essential but often poorly paid jobs that put them at greater risk from COVID-19. 

OXFAM India estimates that 17 million women lost their job in April 2020; Unemployment for women rose by 15 percent from a pre-lockdown level of 18 percent. This increase in unemployment of women can result in a loss to India’s GDP of about 8% or USD 218 billion. In addition, the total time spent in both paid and unpaid activities by women has risen with the increase in the workload as a result of being stuck at homes. Women have been working longer hours and simultaneously managing the daily chores of the household, the educational needs of the children and care for all members of the family. The work-from-home culture has also blurred the lines between working hours and personal downtime.

Work Load Increased –

Millions of women are under stress due to increased domestic functioning during the epidemic. Cooking, cleaning and raising children as well as doing office work are taking toll on them. They have to take the responsibility of the taking care of their elderly at home. When the hospitals are overcrowded, they advised the mild and asymptomatic patients to stay back at home which also added burden to the women at home. Their responsibility to take care for the elderly has also been fulfilled as hospitals are overworked and sending mild or asymptomatic cases home for treatment. The greater participation of women in the "care economy" may also affect their labor force participation rate.

Health Inequalities:-

According to the report findings, only 6 percent of the poorest 20 percent has access to non-shared sources of improved sanitation, compared to 93.4 percent of the top 20 percent. 59.6 percent of India’s population lives in a room or less. This meant that facilities to wash hands and maintaining distance, essential to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, is impossible for a majority of the population. Pregnant women belonging to poor families are often left unassisted as most public health care institutions have been turned into COVID-19 testing facilities and hospitals. The urgent need for healthcare has resulted in massive profiteering from many private health establishments and while the government did take steps to make COVID-19 services affordable by including them under Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY, the scheme only covers BPL population leaving out the uninsured poor and the middle class.

Rise In Violence Against Women During Lockdown:- 

The National Commission for Women (NCW) received 1477 complaints of domestic violence from women between March 25 and May 31, 2020 alone. Economic hardships and growing anxiety during emergencies often fuel violent and abusive relationships directed towards women and the pandemic has been no exception. This has unfortunately led to an increase in cases of domestic violence and in a patriarchy society like ours, women are always at the receiving end. Subasini and Janha are the two example to this.

Impact On Working Women:-

According to an International Labor Organisation report in 2018, women in urban India spent 312 minutes a day on unpaid care work whereas men spent just 29 minutes. In villages, it was 291 minutes for women as against 32 minutes for men. An Oxfam report reveals how Indian women and girls put in more than three billion hours of unpaid care work daily. In terms of monetary value, it would add trillions of rupees to India’s GDP. Along with doing the household chores, raising children, taking care of the elders and others members at home, engaging in full time or part time job is a triple burden for them. According to the Indian government’s Economic Survey 2020, the impact of the crisis on Indian women is even more staggering considering that 60 percent of those in the age group of 15 to 59 are engaged in full-time domestic work.

While the world is still reeling from the evil effects of the pandemic, a distracting crisis can erode education metrics with terrible consequences for poverty and health for women. Based on the past experience, the ramification for women and children in such situations may be irremediable. Therefore, it is very crucial to look the pandemic through a gender lens so that the women like Subasini and Jahna get some kind of relief.