• Mahija Ratnoo

Can Leisure Be Unequal?

Gender inequality has always been the hotly debated topic both among intellectual circles as well as for a common chai par charcha. India’s situation on this crucial aspect of civilization is better reflected by the world economic forum’s global gender gap index wherein India ranks 112 out of 153 countries. UN estimates India to take about two and a half centuries to reach the ‘pay equality’. However, all the debates have been hovering over inequality at the workplace or salary, hence missing out the household scenario. We need to look at and analyze gender inequality from a broader perspective. The economic gender gap not only has widened but also has percolated to other levels of the society, like in the households too.

Gender inequality simply means individual getting treated differently, merely because of their gender.

Gender Pay-Gap refers to the differences in the median earnings of men and women, w.r.t men’s median earnings. On the other hand, Leisure Gap, as the name suggests, is the difference in the amount of mental and physical rest that men and women get.

The gender pay gap is vividly seen disintegrating the global gender gap index, which states:

  • Women are paid 34% less than the men for the same work.

  • The white-collar jobs constitute about 27% of the gender gap pay.

  • Men’s labour participation being 79.1%, exceeds that of women that is 26.85%.

  • Women are heavily underrepresented at senior managerial positions, while overrepresented at low paying job levels.

  • Globally only 19% of the firms have a female as a senior manager

Stereotyping the men’s work as breadwinners and that by women as pursuing a career, and also allotting the unpaid work blatantly for women to do. The mismatch between skills and wages is further exacerbated by the India societal norms like marriage, maternity, etc. causing a dent at the entry-level for women’s participation in the workforce.

Usually, the debates and discussions we have to revolve around Pay gap, smoothly ignoring the other side of the gender inequality coin, that is, leisure gap. 

Both genders work in the same fishbowl environment and it’s a very common sight in almost every household that the distribution of the daily chores is highly skewed towards the woman. This doesn’t change even if the woman is working just like the man. This simply portraits the mismatch at the comfort level as men get time to relax or use it to their leisure, while women devote their free time to finish off the pending household chores. Women are just not overburdened with work at home, but also the work is not recognized as a work in the first place. Her work ranges from daily chores, to look after the kid and also to occasional events and festivities. The constant state of women grappling with the domestic duties along with the job takes a toll on her, both mentally and physically. Also, the patriarchal norms dictating women to validate the men’s helplessness in assuming domestic responsibilities, which in turn entrenches women’s unequal status furthermore.

Some statistics reveal the horrifying state of the situation:

  • Indian women spend up to 352 minutes per day on domestic work, which is 577% more than the men spend.

  • Indian women’s unpaid work crucially contributes about 1% of the GDP to the economy. However, much of this contribution is unrecognized or is incorrectly measured.

  • According to NSSO Survey, up to 64% of women claimed not to have a choice regarding the child care work at home.

  • Women spend 8 hours less than men on leisure activities like socio-cultural activities. This indicated the burden of unpaid work also hinders her ability to contribute to her societal roles outside her home.

A house becomes home with a family, nurtured by utmost love, care and affection, along with a shared responsibility of the duties. No work is to be tagged as big or small or being productive or unproductive. Any work needs to be recognized for the person doing that work feel appreciated and motivated, be it at the workplace or home. The family needs to adjust to the changing role of women and volunteer to share household work, as unrealistic expectations are detrimental to physical and mental well-being of women.

The double burden is a human-created phenomenon by making domestic work as private and also by not remunerating it as it’s considered to be outside the economy. Small steps like giving due recognition to the household works and sharing the burden can help us overcome the double burden faced by our home-makers, giving them leisure time to explore and learn; just like men do!

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