1% rise in female employment could add $11.3 billion in GDP: Sanem
Women spend a significant time in not only marketed but also in non marketed activities, most of which are unpaid care work
Simply a 1% increase in female employment would help the economy grow 0.31% further, revealed a study by the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem).
The potential of adding $11.3 billion to the GDP remained untapped as the female participation rate in the labour market is stagnant for the last decade due to the burden of 81.4% of the unpaid domestic work.
In a webinar titled "Integration of Care Economy in Policy Formulation" organised jointly by Sanem and Manusher Jonno Foundation to unveil the study on Saturday, experts and economists called for finding a way to evaluate the value of unpaid domestic work.
Economics Professor Dr Sayema Haque Bidisha, of the University of Dhaka and research director at Sanem, said in a keynote speech women spend a large portion of their time in unpaid care work.
"The unaccounted work should be recognised and given the dignity to reduce domestic violence, ensuring women's participation in formal works," she added.
Professor Bidisha said the female youths of the country aged from 15-29 years spend 5.93 hours of their day at unpaid care work.
"Women who do not participate in the formal labour market spend 6.38 hours on average, in household activities whereas women in the formal labour market are spending an average of 3 hours daily," she further said.
She said employed males are spending only 1.28 hours for family work while the male not in the labour market is spending 1.68 hours of the day on average for family work.
While Bangladesh is passing through the window of demographic dividend, having half of the population working in unpaid care work for such long hours is a barrier to their economic opportunities, she added.
Referring to the study, Professor Bidisha said women's contribution to unpaid care work equals around 40% of the total GDP of Bangladesh if it is given a monetary value.
But the recognition and reduction of the burden of the women's unpaid care work are more important than assigning a monetary value to it, she added.
She said the burden of an additional 1 hour of unpaid family work would reduce the probability of female labour participation in Bangladesh by 1.8 percentage points. Having children lower than the age of five years reduces the probability of women's labour force participation by 2.4%.
She urged a care economy model which shows direct and indirect means. Under the direct means, the government can facilitate various training programmes and can incentivise the private sector through fiscal policies like tax rebates. Under the indirect means, cash transfer, child care voucher, community-based arrangements for the poorer population and subsidised daycare centres.
Planning Minister MA Mannan said at the event that the prime minister and the government are trying to take steps strategically to address the issues.
He also said the solution to remove stigma is to have appropriate laws and regulations.
The minister added that initiatives such as mandatory three female members at union level or one women vice-chairman at upazila level, 60% of the employment in primary school reserved for women are already taken.
At the event, Md Saiful Islam, additional secretary of the social welfare ministry, said the government has a project to help destitute women so they can earn from home and various allowances are given in 150 upazilas.
He also said the number of people aged over 60 has increased and the demand for caregiving services has also gone up. The government is thinking of some initiatives to formalise the caregiving sector considering the issue.
He asked the private sector, non-government organisations (NGOs) and development partners to jointly work in this field.
Dr Fahmida Khatun, executive director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said the income of women would rise by 2.5-3 times if unpaid care work is estimated along with the paid work.
Quoting a 2014 study by the CPD, she said the financial value of unpaid family work is worth up to 80% of the GDP.
She said one-fourth of the women were not willing to do any paid job as they believed doing household chores and taking care of children is their primary responsibility while a few of them wanted to do a part-time job.
Unaccounted care work is having an impact on women's participation in the labour market, she explained.
Dr Sheikh Muslima Moon, additional director at the Department of Women Affairs under the women and children affairs ministry, said overburden of unpaid work reduces the scope for women to participate in paid work.
"We have to find a way to evaluate the value of unpaid work," she added. "As we are unable to provide a monetary value for the household work, males should participate in some unpaid family work to increase female labour participation."
Baby Rani Karmakar, joint secretary at the Economic Relations Division, termed unpaid care work an intangible asset.
"Our failure to recognise unpaid care work has caused the stigma linked to unpaid domestic work," she added.
Shaheen Anam, executive director at Manusher Jonno Foundation, said in her opening remarks that the care economy can lessen the burden on women and ultimately ensure their participation in paid and formal work.
Having proper policy interventions for this will also have a positive impact on the national GDP, she said, adding recognising unpaid care work will ensure equality and dignity for women.
Dr Selim Raihan, executive director at Sanem, moderated the event.