The vast inequality of wealth in India is a well-known phenomenon. A recent report by international NGO Oxfam revealed some shocking facts about the inequality crisis in the world, and India. The report, titled Time to Care, finds that economies are fueling the crisis. In India, the top 1% of the wealthy elite has accumulated more than four times the amount of wealth held by 953 million people, the report found.
The most surprising revelation was the amount of unpaid labour contributed by girls and women. Women and girls collectively put in 3.26 billion hours of unpaid labour care work (for instance, a woman taking care of household chores) a day. In financial terms, this would amount to a contribution of Rs 19 lakh crore a year to the Indian economy alone. To put things in perspective, this figure is 20 times our education budget last year, which was Rs 93,000 crore.
“Women and girls are among those who benefit least from today’s economic system. They spend billions of hours cooking, cleaning and caring for children and the elderly," said Oxfam India, CEO, Amitabh Behar. According to him, unpaid care work is the ‘hidden engine’ that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses and societies moving. "It is driven by women who often have little time to get an education, earn a decent living or have a say in how our societies are run, and who are therefore trapped at the bottom of the economy,” he added.
The report points to why women get the shorter straw in the economy--they do more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work. They often have to work reduced hours or drop out of the workforce because of their care workload. In fact, 42 percent of women across the globe cannot get jobs because they are responsible for all the caregiving, compared to just six percent of men, found the report.
According to Amitabh, it was governments who started the inequality crisis, and they must be the ones to end it. According to the report, governments are massively under-taxing the wealthiest individuals, corporations and failing to collect revenues that could help lift the responsibility of care from women and tackle poverty and inequality. At the same time, governments are also underfunding vital public services and infrastructure that could help reduce women and girls’ workload. A good starting point would be investments in water and sanitation, electricity, childcare, healthcare--this could free up women’s time and improve their quality of life.
"Governments must ensure corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax and increase investment in public services and infrastructure. They must pass laws to tackle the huge amount of care work done by women and girls, and ensure that people who do some of the most important jobs in our society —caring for our parents, our children and the most vulnerable— are paid a living wage," said Amitabh.
"Governments must prioritise care as being as important as all other sectors in order to build more human economies that work for everyone, not just a fortunate few,” he added.
This report has certainly highlighted eye-opening aspects of women's contribution to the economy, and we hope our government is taking notes!
Featured Image: Shutterstock
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