A gender-sensitive data collection is very crucial to assess women's roles in households and estimate their unpaid work in the country's GDP, said experts, academics and policymakers at a webinar on Friday.
A change in people's perspective on women's values and roles in society will also assist in the process of achieving gender equality, they said.
"We need to recognise and value a woman's unaccounted work in every aspect – be it agricultural, domestic or reproductive," said Shaheen Anam, executive director at Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), at the virtual discussion.
The MJF and The Business Standard jointly organised the discussion titled "Formal recognition of women's unaccounted work, incorporation into GDP through satellite system of accounts".
Manusher Jonno Foundation's 2012 campaign "Equality through Dignity" continues to address the stark gender inequality issue: How to incorporate women's unaccounted work at home into the gross domestic product (GDP) framework through a satellite system of accounts.
Household satellite accounts measure the unpaid work of a household as the time spent on unpaid care and domestic work by household members.
"There has not been any survey on unpaid care work by women since 2012," Dr Nazneen Ahmed, a senior research fellow at Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
The lack of gender-sensitive data and information is a setback, it comes in the way of assessing women's contribution to the GDP.
Women should not be boxed in specific job sectors such as the RMG sector, health and education, said Dr Nazneen adding, "We need to move out of gender-segregated job industries and recognise women's work inside and outside the house."
"Our ultimate goal is to increase women's participation in the labour market. If this is done, women will automatically be recognised for their work and they will be empowered," she also said.
"We do not have gender-specific data," said Dr Sayema Haque Bidisha, research director at South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem).
The recognition of women's unaccounted work is associated with not only achieving Sustainable Development Goal but also dignifies women in society. "By doing so, women can become just as influential in the labour market as they already are in the RMG industry," she added.
Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, at the event said, "My question is – what do we plan to do once we have made the estimation [of women's unpaid work]?"
"We need to find out how much women are benefiting from government funds sanctioned for the betterment of women and their livelihoods, especially at this pandemic time," he added.
Dr Muntaha Rakib, an Economics professor at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, said, "A woman does four times more household work than a man. If we can recognise this, there will definitely be a positive impact on social and human capital."
Maheen Sultan, a senior research fellow at Brac Institute of Governance and Development, pointed out that studies show how men become more involved in household work when the task becomes easier. For instance, the use of a gas stove is likely to engage more men in the kitchen.
This is to say, technology and access to basic amenities such as water and electricity also have a great influence on household work dynamics.
A girl's participation in household work is very likely to be much higher than a boy's, which consequently hinders the girl's education, said Dr Sharmin Neelormi, associate professor of Economics at Jahangirnagar University.
The professor insists on meaningful data collection, which can enable the assessment of gender roles in households and reduce gender-centric budget limitations.
"In this situation, the government's Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division will take strong measures for the full participation and recognition of women in employment," she further added.
"Recognition, reduction and redistribution of 'unaccounted' work will benefit women. It is important to establish the scope for women to choose the work they want to do, to raise their voice," said Banasree Mitra Neogi, gender adviser to the MJF.
"This is why we keep circling back to this topic of recognising women's unaccounted work, and the need for satellite accounts."
"It is the duty of the government to take measures and establish a gender-equal country," said Neogi. "The private sector and non-government organisations also share a responsibility to work together toward this goal."
"By recognising women's work and value, we can establish a space where women can live a fear-free and respected life," she added.
Time use surveys, which aims to report data on how people on average spend their time, have been in use by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) to measure women's unpaid work in Bangladesh.
"We have already commenced this work with assistance from UN Women, and by December we will have a result," said Ziauddin Ahmed, director at the BBS.
"We will have a formal satellite account estimation and know women's contribution to the GDP."
"Our research and policy documents still lack the gender-sensitive data and analysis," said Dr Atiur Rahman, Bangabandhu Chair at Dhaka University and former governor of Bangladesh Bank. "We must do more in this regard," he added.
"The coronavirus pandemic has exponentially increased the load of unaccounted work for women," he said, adding, "at the end of the day, if we fail to change our mindset in regards to women's role and value, not much can be achieved with all the satellite accounts and estimations."
"MJF has been addressing this issue for a few years now, and I believe we take this issue quite seriously," said Planning Minister MA Mannan.
During the webinar, the planning minister addressed the BBS director directly to say that in the interest of moving forward, they should sit together and discuss the areas in which the BBS is failing to take women's contribution to the GDP into account.