The ‘Balancing unpaid care work and paid work’ research project was carried out to create knowledge on how women’s economic empowerment (WEE) policy and programming can generate a ‘double boon’ – paid work that empowers women and provides more support for their unpaid care work responsibilities.
In India, the two WEE programmes selected for this research were: the state-run Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the non-state Self Employed Women’s Association in Madhya Pradesh (SEWA MP).
Research showed that women’s paid work experiences were shaped by a number of factors, including: care responsibilities, social norms on women’s work; the lack of decent work options; the poor working conditions of paid work available; as well as the support structures that were available to them at the levels of family, community, employer and the state. Women performed the majority of care work tasks, with responsibility determined by an interplay of sticky gender norms and poverty conditions. There was a strong correlation between the availability of and access to public resources and services and the intensity and drudgery of care tasks as well as their experiences of paid work.
There are many positive gender- and care-responsive features of both WEE programmes. However, it clear that the existing WEE programmes have more to accomplish in order to create a ‘double boon’ for women workers. The research makes recommendations at state and non-state levels in order to make women’s economic empowerment optimal, shared across families and sustained across generations.