It's worth mentioning that unpaid household work is the foundation of society—the invisible labour that keeps our homes and lives running smoothly.
In Bangladesh, this work predominantly falls on the shoulders of women, yet it remains undervalued and unacknowledged. This article delves into the current state of unpaid household work in Bangladesh, explores key factors exacerbating this issue, using logical and statistical evidence, and discusses ways to recognise the selfless work of women in this domain.
Unpaid household work is an integral part of daily life in Bangladesh, encompassing a wide range of activities such as cooking, cleaning, childcare, and elderly care. It is the foundation upon which every society is built, and in Bangladesh, women play a pivotal role in maintaining their households. Unfortunately, this work often remains hidden and unappreciated, leading to a myriad of challenges.
The current state of unpaid household work in Bangladesh is characterised by a stark gender divide. Women bear the lion's share of this responsibility, devoting an average of 13 hours per day to unpaid work, while men contribute only 1.2 hours, as per data from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).
This glaring disparity reflects the unequal distribution of domestic labour and underscores the need to examine the factors exacerbating this issue. What factors exacerbate unpaid household work in Bangladesh, underpinned by logical arguments and relevant statistics, are provided below:
Gender Norms and Stereotypes: Traditional gender norms and stereotypes play a significant role in perpetuating unpaid household work. Women are expected to take on the responsibility of homemaking, while men are encouraged to participate in paid employment.
This creates a vicious cycle where women continue to shoulder the bulk of unpaid work. A UN Women report reveals that 80% of Bangladeshi women believe their most important role is to take care of the home.
Lack of Infrastructure and Services: Inadequate infrastructure and public services in Bangladesh contribute to the burden of unpaid household work. Limited access to clean water, electricity, and modern kitchen appliances means women spend more time on tasks that could be made more efficient. The absence of reliable public transportation further adds to the time and effort required for daily chores.
Low Economic Empowerment of Women: Economic disparities between men and women are a significant factor in exacerbating unpaid household work. The World Bank reports that the female labour force participation rate in Bangladesh is only 36.1%, considerably lower than the male participation rate of 81.1%.
This economic disparity forces women into a situation where they are financially dependent on men and unable to engage in paid employment, increasing their reliance on unpaid work.
Limited Social Support Systems: Bangladesh's social support systems often fall short of providing adequate assistance for tasks related to childcare and elderly care. This places an additional burden on women to shoulder these responsibilities, leading to an increase in unpaid work. The lack of affordable and accessible childcare facilities and elderly care centres forces women to allocate more time to these responsibilities.
Lack of Data and Recognition: One of the critical factors exacerbating unpaid household work is the lack of comprehensive data and recognition. Unpaid work is often invisible in official statistics and rarely considered in economic policymaking.
This lack of recognition perpetuates the undervaluing of women's contributions to the household and society. As a result, unpaid work remains largely invisible in national and international discussions.
To recognise the selfless work of women in unpaid household labour, it is imperative to take the following steps:
Acknowledge their contributions: The first step in recognising women's selfless work in unpaid household labour is to acknowledge and appreciate their immense contributions. Families, communities, and society at large should recognise and value the work done by women in maintaining households.
Promote equal sharing of household tasks: Encouraging a fair distribution of household tasks between men and women is crucial. Men should actively participate in domestic chores to reduce the burden on women and promote a more balanced family dynamic. Shared responsibility for housework should be normalised.
Create supportive policies: Government and policymakers can play a vital role in recognising women's work through supportive policies. These policies should include incentives for women's economic empowerment, the provision of affordable and accessible childcare services, and investments in infrastructure that can ease the burden of unpaid work.
Collect data on unpaid work: Comprehensive data on unpaid household work should be gathered to recognise its significance. Surveys and studies should be conducted to understand the extent and impact of unpaid work in Bangladesh. This data will provide the basis for evidence-based policies.
Raise awareness: Public awareness campaigns can significantly contribute to highlighting the importance of unpaid household work and the need to recognise and value women's contributions. These campaigns should target both men and women, challenging societal attitudes towards traditional gender roles and responsibilities.
In a nutshell, unpaid household work in Bangladesh is a hidden challenge that disproportionately affects women. The gender disparities in unpaid work are exacerbated by traditional norms, inadequate infrastructure, economic disparities, limited social support systems, and a lack of recognition.
To recognise and value women's selfless contributions, it is crucial to acknowledge their efforts, promote equal sharing of household tasks, create supportive policies, collect data, and raise awareness. It is high time that we unveil and appreciate the invaluable role of women in Bangladesh in sustaining our homes and society.
Md Ariful Islam is an anthropology graduate from the University of Dhaka and an independent researcher interested in climate change and social inequality
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.