A recent study, based on a survey of 400 households, has said if one combines both "paid" and "unpaid" work, the average work-time of rural male respondents is 63 hours and that of urban male respondents is 73 hours, as against rural female respondents' 79 hours and urban female respondents' is 74 hours.
Pointing out that, as a result, rural males spend, on an average, 81 hours and urban males 71 hours on leisure and personal care, the study says that, as against this, rural female respondents spend 65 hours and that of urban female respondents is 70 hours on leisure and personal care.
"This clearly indicates that average work-time of women is higher than that of men and average time for leisure and personal care for women is lower than that of men both in rural and urban areas", the says, adding, "The burden of unpaid household work hinders women from seeking employment and income, which in turn holds them back economically and, therefore, obstructs their economic empowerment."
The study identifies unpaid work to include "preparing food, shopping food items and apparels, collecting firewood and water etc. and also all sorts of care work like taking care of children, the ill and the elderly", insisting, "According to the prevailing gender norms, in all societies, women undertake the responsibility of the unpaid household work."
"Being unpaid, this work is supposed to be less valuable than paid work. It is ignored and not considered to be 'work' by men who benefit directly from it", the study says.
The study involves sampling of 200 rural households from 8 villages of the Chinsurah-Magra Administrative block and 200 urban households from 8 municipal wards of the Hooghly-Chinsurah Municipality area in Bengal. There are 400 female respondents and 347 male respondents.
Authored by Anindita Sengupta of the University of Burdwan, and presented as a case study in Dresden, Germany, of those surveyed, 6.5% depend on self-employed in non-agricultural sectors, 10.1% on self-employed in agriculture, 11.6% on agricultural labour, 35.2% are other workers, 19.1 per cent are domestic workers and the remaining 17.6 per cent are regular salaried employees.
According to Sengupta, "The hard work that is often involved in carrying out domestic responsibilities impacts negatively on the health and wellbeing of women, further compromising their ability to participate in economic, social and political spheres."
Analyzing the difference between the average working hours of women and men in percentage terms, the study says, it found "rural men spent 22.1% of whole time on paid work, 9% on unpaid household work, 12.4% on unpaid social work and studies and remaining 56.4% on leisure and personal care."
"On the other hand", it said, "Rural women spent 14.3% of whole time on paid work, 27.9% on unpaid household work, 13% on unpaid social work and studies and remaining 44.% on leisure and personal care."
Figures also reveal that urban men spent 32.3 per cent of whole time on paid work, 7.5 per cent on unpaid household work, 11.1 per cent on unpaid social work and studies and remaining 49.1 per cent on leisure and personal care.
On the other hand, urban women spent 10.8 per cent of whole time on paid work, 26.5 per cent on unpaid household work, 13.9 per cent on unpaid social work and studies and remaining 48.7 per cent on leisure and personal care.