Are Economic Systems Sexist?

Women and girls put in 3.26 billion hours of unpaid care work every single day in India. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Women and girls put in 3.26 billion hours of unpaid care work every single day in India. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Diya Dutta
DELHI, India, Feb 12 2020 – Women’s unpaid care work is the hidden engine that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses, and societies moving, yet it is not accounted for.

Inequality is writ large in our economies. Not only are the top one percent capturing greater wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the population, there appears to be significant gender disparity within billionaire wealth as well. Globally, roughly one out of ten billionaires today are women—and the same was true in 2010.

The situation is particularly telling in India—currently there is only one female billionaire for every 20—down from one in 12 in 2018.

In its annual Global Gender Gap Report (2020), India continues to be ranked poorly in terms of improving the gender gap. At a composite rank of 112 out of 153 countries, it has moved down four places from its previous rank of 108, and the economic gap has gotten significantly wider since 2006.

Women and girls put in 3.26 billion hours of unpaid care work every single day in India—a contribution of at least 10 percent of GDP

The country fared poorly on three of the four measured segments: economic participation (149); health and survival (150); and educational attainment (112); while ranking fairly high for political empowerment (18). The composite rank puts India behind Bangladesh (50), Nepal (101), and Sri Lanka (102).


Women and work

The transfer of women’s work from household to commercial employment is among the most notable features of economic development. Yet, India is marked by abysmally low and falling female labour force participation.

The government of India’s Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) published by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) estimated female labour force participation at 23.3 percent in 2017-18. This means that three out of four women aged 15 years and above are not working nor seeking work.

This is worrisome, especially since unemployment rates are highest amongst women with advanced levels of education (24.6 percent) as compared to those with tertiary levels of education (16.2 percent) and basic level of education (2.9 percent).

A common explanation provided for this is that more numbers of girls are enrolled in education. However, PLFS data indicates a fall in workforce participation for older women—those between 30-50 years of age where two out of three women were reported as not working.

It is most pronounced in women aged between 35-39 years: 33.5 percent of them were reported as not working in 2017-18 as compared to nine percent in 2011-12. That is one in three women not working, versus the one in 11, six years prior.

There appears to be a mismatch between demand and supply—there is a lack of adequate decent jobs for the educated youth in this country especially women. Social norms also restrict the kind of jobs that women and young girls can take up, leaving them with few opportunities for paid employment.

Most women in the prime working age category (between 30-50 years) reported ‘attending to domestic duties only’, which refers to running of the household and taking care of children and/or elderly relatives.

Unpaid care work is the hidden engine that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses, and societies moving.

Women and girls put in 3.26 billion hours of unpaid care work every single day in India—a contribution of at least 10 percent of GDP. When calculated in actual terms this means women’s unpaid care work contributes INR 19 lakh crore of the GDP, which is twenty times the entire education budget of India in 2019, three times the revenue of Reliance Industries, and four times that of ONGC as per 2018-19 data.


But paid care isn’t working in women’s favour either

Women consistently earn less than men—the estimated earned income for women in India is just 20 percent of male income; and they are concentrated in the lowest paid and least secure forms of work. For example, women make up two-thirds of the paid care workforce.

Jobs such as nursery workers, domestic workers, and care assistants are often very poorly paid, provide scant benefits, impose irregular hours, and can take a physical and emotional toll.

It is a vicious cycle where the high burden of unpaid care work inhibits women and girls from pursuing education and engaging in paid employment. With little or no education and low skills, women are left to collect the scraps of low paid, insecure, unskilled jobs. This explains why they account for only 30 percent of professional and technical workers, and 20 percent of leadership roles in the country.

Oxfam’s latest report, Time to Care, shows that the pressure on carers, both unpaid and paid, is set to grow in the coming decade as the global population grows and ages. Climate change could worsen the looming global care crisis—by 2025, up to 2.4 billion people will live in areas without enough water, and women and girls will have to walk even longer distances to fetch it. Eighty percent of indigenous people live in Asia and the Pacific, a region vulnerable to climate change.


Governments created the inequality crisis—they must act now to end it

Globally, governments are massively under-taxing the wealthiest individuals and 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 underfunding vital public services and infrastructure that could help reduce women and girls’ workload.

For example, investments in water and sanitation, electricity, childcare, healthcare could free up women’s time and improve their quality of life.

The issue of unpaid care work is central to women’s economic empowerment, and not accounting for it in statistical systems and economic growth measurements is likely to impact policy interventions aimed at improving access to opportunities for women.

The four R’s of unpaid care workrecognise, reduce, redistribute, and representshould be the framework guiding policies and programmes which seek to address the skewed distribution of unpaid activities among men and women.

The state plays an important role in reducing the skewed distribution of unpaid work between men and women, and the issue should be viewed as a shared responsibility between households and governments.


Know more

  • To know more about the state of inequality in India read the India supplement of Time to Care.
  • Read this IDR article that uncovers trends, identifies data gaps, and makes actionable recommendations for policy design through a meta-analysis of India’s female labour participation.
  • Read this feminist comic which explains the mental load that women carry on a regular basis.


Do more


Diya Dutta is Research Manager at Oxfam India. She has been leading the inequality research work at Oxfam India for the past three years. She has contributed to Oxfam’s India Inequality Report 2019 and Oxfam India Inequality Report, On Women’s Backs. She has been working on the issue of unpaid care work for over a decade and has been a researcher for more than 15 years. Diya has a PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University and an MPhil from Oxford University.


This story was originally published by India Development Review (IDR)

War No More

A UN meeting on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

By Cora Weiss
NEW YORK, Feb 12 2020 – 75 years ago following the end of the Second World War and the first time any state has dropped an atomic bomb, not once, but twice, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 51 countries from all continents met to create the United Nations.

Its primary purpose, as stated in the Charter says: “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…” Of course, it is also dedicated to human rights for all and equal rights for men and women and nations large and small and more…

But peace, prevention of war, is its ”most profound purpose,” Ambassador William vanden Heuvel said when he suggested we organize this conference on “War No More”.

It is to this purpose, to save humanity from war, that the Committee on Teaching About the UN with the co- sponsorship of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the UN, has dedicated its conference which will convene on February 28, 2020.

We honor the UN on its 75th anniversary and call for the full implementation of this purpose.

Cora Weiss

It is often said that as long as there are people there will be war. But it hasn’t always been that way and certainly war is not inevitable.

Indeed, not only has the UN called for saving succeeding generations, but the Charter also calls for “…the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources…” (Art 26); the First Committee is dedicated to Disarmament.

It goes on, “… (Art 2.3) All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means…” and (2.4) states, “All Members shall refrain from the threat or use of force…”

Some say that as long as there is a right of self-defense (Art 51) there shall be war. We will see what the lawyers and experts including Liechtenstein’s Ambassador Christian Wenaweser and James Ranney, international law professor, say in their conversation.

Have you heard of Bertha von Suttner, the young poor Princess who answered an ad from Alfred Nobel for a housekeeper. In short, she left his employ having persuaded him to turn the profits from his invention of dynamite to support a Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1905 Bertha became a Nobel Peace Laureate for writing the best-selling, “Lay Down Your Arms”, (Die Waffen Neider) probably the only novel written about disarmament, and for organizing the world’s first International Peace Congress.

It resulted in banning hot air balloons, mustard gas and dumdum bullets. Did she anticipate climate change?

Getting rid of war has been a hope for generations. Eleanor Roosevelt said that that, “the idea of war is obsolete”. Abolishing war has been a serious multinational effort.

A Hibakusha, one of the survivors of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, speaks at a special event commemorating Disarmament Week in October 2011. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

Following the first World War and the League of Nations, the Kellogg Briand Pact, 1928, was signed by all “major states” including the foreign ministers of the US and France, who agreed not to… “resort to war to resolve disputes or conflicts of whatever nature.’’

The Pact could not prevent or stop wars of “self-defense” and had no enforcement capacity.

Lord Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, who said that nuclear weapons threaten the “continued existence of mankind”, also called for the end of war. War, in the age of atomic bombs, “is the most serious problem that has ever confronted the human race,” said Lord Russell. Thus, the Russell Einstein Manifesto of 1955 was signed by the world’s leading scientists including Marie Joliot-Curie. › world › jul › russell-einstein-peace-manifesto…

In 1999, on the centennial of the world’s first Peace Congress, the Hague Appeal for Peace convened 10,000 people from over 100 countries in The Hague and called for Peace is a Human Right and it is Time to Abolish War. Archbishop Desmond Tutu told us, “If the world could get rid of Apartheid, why not war?”

UN Secretary–General Kofi Annan addressed the HAP conference, urging everyone, “Don’t despair, don’t deny and by all means don’t ever give up”.

The Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century with 50 Articles going from a Culture of War to a Culture of Peace, became a UN document, A/54/98.

It created the Global Campaign for Peace Education which states, “A Culture of Peace will be achieved when citizens of the world understand global problems, have the skills to resolve conflicts, and struggle for justice non-violently.

“War No More” takes its name from the drawing, Nie Wieder Krieg, (War Never Again) 1924, by the German artist and peace activist, Kathe Kollwitz. Her son was killed in the first World War.

The apocalyptic twins, nuclear weapons and the climate crisis, are the existential threats destined, if not reversed, to cause the war no one survives. As long as there is armed violence between states, or groups, no amount of good governance, democracy, human rights or development can be sustained.

Positive Peace, says the Institute for Economics and Peace, not only looks at the risks of violence but at what builds peaceful and resilient societies.

We urge everyone to imagine what the Future they want looks like. What can you take away from this conference to work on to make your future happen? What can we ask of the Member States to make a World Without War?.


The “War No More” conference will be welcomed by the Chair of CTAUN Anne-Marie Carlson; the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the UN, Ambassador Cho Hyun; and Under-Secretary-General, Virginia Gamba, Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict.

The conference is organized around 6 conversations: It starts with Nobel Peace laureate and Liberian activist and educator, Leymah Gbowee in conversation with author, activist Gloria Steinem facilitated by ERA Coalition CEO, Carol Jenkins. They will discuss the role of civil society and women in the prevention of war and in peace processes.

New technologies follow: Hypersonics, Artificial Intelligence, Drones, cyber warfare with Michael Klare, Senior Fellow, Arms Control Association, in conversation with Eleonore Pauwels, Senior Fellow, Global Center on Cooperative Security, Adaora Udoji, award winning journalist, expert in emerging technologies, and facilitator Mark Wood, graduate student Columbia University.


Tony Jenkins, Global Campaign for Peace Education, ( and Eunhee Jung, Founder and President. Intercultural Virtual Exchange of Classroom Activities, (IVECA)will be in conversation with Ramu Damodaran, UN Academic Impact (UNAI) serving as facilitator.

Women Peace and Security and Youth Peace and Security will be discussed by Mavic Cabrera Balleza, founder and chief of Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, Mallika Iyer and Dinah Lakehal and Heela Yoon with George Lopez, Notre Dame Univ professor, as facilitator.

UN Under-Secretary-General Izumi Nakamitso will discuss disarmament with Randy Rydell, former UN Senior Political Affairs Officer with George Lopez also facilitating. Camryn Bruno will perform a Spoken Word on small arms. World Peace through Force of law not Law of Force, will be discussed by Liechtenstein’s UN Ambassador Christian Wenaweser and James T Ranney. Their facilitator will be Jutta F. Bertram-Nothnagel.

*During the Vietnam War, Cora Weiss was co-chair of the Committee of Liaison which hand-carried mail to American pilots –POW’s– in North Vietnam and brought mail back to their families every month for 3 years. And she, with a few others, brought three former POW’s home as a peace gesture before the war ended.