Yangchen C Rinzin
Women perform 71 percent of unpaid care work, 2.5 times (218 minutes) more than men (87 minutes), according to the report on Accounting for Unpaid Care Work in Bhutan 2019.
On paid work, men spend 2.5 times (147 minutes) more than women (57 minutes).
Unpaid care work is increasingly being recognised as critical for sustaining people’s daily lives, yet it remains invisible to many policy makers, economists, and national statisticians.
As yet, it is excluded from conventional national income accounts.
It falls outside conventional definitions of what counts as works and is unaccounted for in the national accounting system. This is because unpaid care work largely consists of activities like cooking, cleaning, caring for children, the sick, and the elderly.
Unpaid care work is an important aspect of economic activity and the burden of unpaid care work is particularly borne by the women that underlie gender inequality.
This is important in Bhutanese society too, as it contends with similar issues, according to the report. Unpaid care work is still viewed as the natural duty of women.
The report revealed that unpaid care work has a total value of Nu 23,509.11 million, which is equivalent to 16 percent of GDP if measured using a ‘specialist’ wage.
Over two-thirds of the estimated monetary value of unpaid work was performed by women and the rest by men.
Another significant finding was that 95 percent of women engage in household maintenance and management activities, and about 33 percent of women engaged in providing unpaid care services.
The report also found that women spend more time on unpaid household and care work than men regardless of income, age cohorts, residency, or employment status, and as income goes up, men are less likely to spend on unpaid household and care work.
When it comes to total value of unpaid care work, in 2017, women 15 and older spent 310 million hours on unpaid household and care work, while men spent 150 million hours.
“Women’s contribution to unpaid household and care work was at least two times larger than that of men. While women’s contribution as a share of GDP is 11 percent, men’s contribution is around five percent,” the report said.
The report, which was launched yesterday coinciding with the International Day of the Girl Child, is aimed at documenting the gender patterns of unpaid care work in the country.
It also aims to measure and value unpaid care work as it reflects the large amount of unpaid care work is disproportionately performed by women. Which is why the report also seek and recommended for modifications/additions to current national surveys and data, which would allow a more precise measure of unpaid care work going forward.
It has also recommended to incorporate the findings into the GNH conceptualization and unique institutional and policy framework.
“It recommends on labour policies that could help narrow the gender gap in unpaid care work, maximize the rewards and acknowledge the value of such work,” said the report.
Health Minister Dechen Wangmo and Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) launched the study report conducted by the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) and ADB. The hashtag #ICommit #StopRape #MinorRape was also launched.
NCWC’s director, Kunzang Lhamu, said that it was time girls were encouraged to pursue their dreams, uplift their self-esteem and celebrate their talents.
“More girls are competing and attending schools, fewer are getting married or becoming mothers and gaining skills to accept in the world of work,” she said. “However, we wake up to the fact that girls are lying in the unsafe or unsecure settings, and exposed to neglect and abuse.”
She reminded that many legal instruments and policies still lagged behind in implementation and a safe nurturing environment should be created for the children.
With the girl child day themed “Girl Force: unsubscripted and unstoppable”, UNICEF representative Dr Will Parks said that a theme was fitting for Bhutan where girls were proving they are unscripted and unstoppable. “Let’s stand with our girls as they break boundaries and barriers posed by stereotypes and exclusion, as they unleash their potential to be unscripted and unstoppable, as they move from dreaming to achieving.”
Health minister said that access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health, saw a huge improvement.
“Today, I am proud to share that we’re are able to significantly improve the legal and policy environment to eliminate all forms of discrimination against our girls and provide them with equal platform to participate in social and economic development,” she said.