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Being a Housewife Matters

A salute to the homemakers of today!

‘Mumma, aap karte hi kya ho?’; ‘Tum din bhar ghar par rahti ho par tum itna bhi nahi kar sakti.’ Many a times we hear statements like this from the working members (those who do a job or has a profession or business income) of our family addressing our mothers, sisters and wives who are homemakers and on a contrary they still take care of them every day for such thankless job. We tend to take them for granted knowingly or unknowingly.

In this COVID19 pandemic times when we are forced to work from home, it has given us an opportunity to take note of the fact that it is because of these ladies that we are able to do our jobs well and get paid by our employers. This is not the case with these homemakers because their work starts before our offices begin and ends long after our offices close for the day and on top of it, their work does not have any economic value as they are not being paid for their services. This is a fact that we generally ignore because it hardly matters us. This is even more apparent when we try to buy a term insurance policy in the name of a homemaker (commonly known as housewives in the financial industry). Firstly, the life insurance company is reluctant to insure them or if they do then either they factor in the spouse’s income to calculate the sum assured or restrict it only to a small token amount of insurance according to the insurance company’s underwriting guidelines. Isn’t it demeaning or a disgrace to their service or rather their daily sacrifices for the family? It’s time to give them the due respect and love that they deserve if not money because we can’t afford to pay what they do for all of us or for the family or for the GDP of the country.

A recent judgement by our honourable Supreme Court, Bench of Justice N V Ramana and Justice Surya Kant in a scooter accident case of April 2014 where the couple died in the accident being hit by a car where one of the deceased was a housewife. The court enhanced the insurance compensation by Rs. 11.20 lakhs with the overall compensation of Rs.33.20 lakhs to be paid to the family of the deceased with 9% p.a. interest to be paid from May 2014. Justice Ramana mentioned about Lata Wadhwa case of 2001 when the issue of compensation was dealt with for housewives on the basis of services by them in the house. He shared some important statistics in this regards:

· As per 2011 census, nearly 159.85 million women mentioned “household work” as their main occupation as against only 5.79 million men;

· As per NSSO data on ‘Time Use in India-2019’ which suggested that, on an average, women spend nearly 299 minutes (4.98 hours) a day on unpaid domestic services for household members Vs 97 minutes (1.62 hours) for men;

· Also spent 134 minutes (2.23 hours) a day on unpaid caregiving services for household members Vs 76 minutes (1.27 hours) for men.

He further said:

“The sheer amount of time and effort that is dedicated to household work by individuals, who are more likely to be women than men, is not surprising when one considers the plethora of activities a homemaker undertakes. A homemaker often prepares food for the entire family, manages the procurement of groceries and other household shopping needs, cleans and manages the house and its surroundings, undertakes decoration, repairs and maintenance work, looks after the needs of the children and any aged member of the household, manages budgets and so much more.”

In rural households, they often also assist in sowing, harvesting and transplanting activities in the farms apart from cattle tending activities. The issue of fixing notional income for a homemaker, therefore, served an extremely important function and was a recognition of the multitude of women engaged in this activity, whether by choice or as a result of social/cultural norms, Supreme Court said.

The complete judgement is an eye-opener for many of us as it sets the tone for future policies and direction in this regards and to consider the value of labour, services and sacrifices of homemakers. It is also an acceptance of the fact that these activities contribute in a very real sense to the economic condition of the family, and the economy of the nation, regardless of the fact that it may have been earlier ignored from the point of economic analysis. It is a reflection of changing attitudes and mindsets for social equality and dignity of life for every individuals and a step in the right direction for the future.

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