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“Pattern of Time Use of Adult Women and Men in Rural North Bangladesh”

This brief is a position note on the occasion of the national sharing of the key findings of the research on the Pattern of Time Use by Adult Women and Men in Northern Bangladesh” conducted by ActionAId Bangladesh (AAB) in collaboration of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University with support from European Commission.
Unpaid Care Works (UCW) that are essential for maintaining our society is primarily done by the women and girls.

When this work is carried out in the person’s own home and is unpaid, it is not reflected in national statistics or economic analyses, despite its centrality to our day-to-day wellbeing. It is perceived less valuable than paid work and it is ignored and not considered to be “work” even by the women and men who engage in and get benefit directly from these activities. In part because it is invisible in national statistics and less valued, local and national authorities generally fail to design social and economic policies that can reduce women’s primary responsibility for unpaid care work.

Unpaid Care Work (UCW)- United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNDFW) says, “The term ‘unpaid’ differentiates this care from paid care provided by employees in the public and NGO sectors and employees and self-employed persons in the private sector.

The word ‘care’ indicates that the services provided to nurture other people. The word ‘work’ indicates that these activities are costly in time and energy and are undertaken as obligations (contractual or social).” Unpaid care work as work principally done by women, which is not paid, provides services that nurture other people and is costly in terms of time and energy.

It refers to all the activities that go into caring for household members; it includes household chores, child care and care of ill and elderly persons.

As unpaid care work is often seen as women’s responsibility, unpaid and not seen as work, it remains invisible. 3R Strategy is important in this regards which means recognition, reduction and redistribution of UCW. Recognision means making unpaid care work visible within the community and society at large (AAI Concept note on UCW).

Reduction refers to provide more public services and social protection schemes to reduce arduous unpaid care work (AA HRBA V 2.0, p-190). In Quick Guide to UCW of Sida mentioned that, once the nature and consequences of unpaid care work are understood, it is important to take measures to reduce and to redistribute it. The purpose of reduction of unpaid care work is to free time for women to engage in economic, social and political activities.

To redistribute responsibilities of UCW does not only refer to a more equitable division of labour in the household between women and men, but also a more equal sharing of these responsibilities with the state as the primary duty-bearer. It is the responsibility of government to take on some of the burden of care that households, particularly poor households, are not able to shoulder (AAI Concept Note on UCW).

Recently UN produced and shared a special report in General Assembly on ‘Extreme Poverty and Human Rights’ in 2013; it is basically on UCW. In the summary of the report it states that unpaid care work is positioned as a major human rights issue. Focusing on women caregivers, particularly those living in poverty, the Special Rapporteur argues that heavy and unequal care responsibilities are a major barrier to gender equality and to women’s equal enjoyment of human rights, and, in many cases, condemn women to poverty.

Therefore, the failure of States to adequately provide, fund, support and regulate care contradicts their human rights obligations, by creating and exacerbating inequalities and threatening women’s rights enjoyment. Ultimately, it argues that State policies should position care as a social and collective responsibility, in particular through improving women’s access to public services, care services and infrastructure.

Echoing the same as UN, AAB beliefs the government should take steps for recognition, reduction and redistribution of UCW considering women’s immense contribution in family, society and state as whole. Hence it requires relevant data and information on time use by the women and men in UCW to induce the government that women really contribute in UCW disproportionately and they need support from government directly.

But in Bangladesh we found only one study on time use by women and men done by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) titled “Time Use Pilot Survey 2012” and they published report in December 2013. While AAB initiated a research from March 2013 using time diaries with collaboration of Centre for Gender and Social Transformation (CGST), BRAC University under “Strengthening Women Collectives in Bangladesh, India and Nepal Project”.

We produced the second periodic report titled “The Pattern of Time Use of Adult Women and Men in Rural North Bangladesh” in February 2015.

Both studies show that care work is unevenly distributed between women and men in Bangladesh which is almost similar globally. BBS report shows that on average time spent by employed woman in household work is 3.6 hours, followed by employed man 1.4 hours and unemployed man and woman in household work is 1.2 and 6.2 hours respectively.

Recently completed AAB research (2014) on time use by women and men finds that the amount of time spent in care and productive work is varied significantly by gender. Women, on average, spent amount of time in unpaid care work is 6 hours 40 minutes and productive work is 5 hours, while men spent less than one hour and 10 minutes in unpaid care work. That means both study revealed men spend far less time than women and women disproportionately spend their time in unpaid care work.

The country’s almost half of population is women, and they are spending more than one-third of daily working time in such a work which is neither recognized by the state nor valued by the family and society. UN report densely mentioned that such uneven care responsibilities are a major barrier to gender equality and to women’s equal enjoyment of human rights and condemn women to poverty. It is also barrier for women to be engaged in economic, social and political activities as a citizen of the country.

In this context AAB is going to share the research findings nationally with the policy makers, civil society members, academics, journalists, development organizations, funding agencies and other greater audiences. In the same line with UN we hope the government will come forward to recognize, reduce and redistribute the unequal burden of women’s unpaid care work by changing relevant policies and introducing new programme, interventions, etc.

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