Recognizing and Valuing Unpaid Labor: A Step Towards Gender Equity in India

This unrecognized and unmonetized work not only affects their economic standing but also takes a toll on their mental health, exacerbating existing inequalities in access to healthcare. The dual responsibilities of paid employment and household duties create double bind for women

By Drishti Joshi
New Update

Unpaid Labour in India

The Lancet analysis underscores the urgent need to address the unequal distribution of unpaid labor, which disproportionately affects women. While women spend a significant portion of their day on unpaid activities such as housework and childcare, men predominantly engage in paid work. This stark contrast highlights the persistent gender disparities that permeate Indian households.


The proposed policy initiative by the Tamil Nadu-based political party, Makkal Needhi Maiam (MKM), to provide a salary for homemakers represents a groundbreaking step towards recognizing the value of unpaid labor. By acknowledging the contribution of homemakers and providing them with financial compensation, MKM aims to elevate the dignity of women and rectify the historical neglect of their essential role in sustaining households.

However, the proposal also raises questions about implementation and the quantification of compensation. Determining the appropriate amount to adequately reflect the value of unpaid labor requires careful consideration of various factors, including regional disparities and the diversity of household responsibilities. Despite these challenges, MKM's initiative signals a promising shift towards valuing and remunerating the indispensable contributions of homemakers.

The nationwide survey of time use conducted in 2020 further underscores the pervasive nature of gender inequality in household labor. With only 26% of men reporting any involvement in housework, the burden overwhelmingly falls on women. This unequal distribution is particularly pronounced in states like Haryana, where women spend significantly more time on unpaid labor compared to men. Such disparities not only perpetuate gender inequality but also hinder women's economic empowerment and overall well-being.


In 2021, India's Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgment that recognized the economic value of homemakers' work. By including a "notional income" for a deceased homemaker in an insurance dispute case, the court affirmed the intrinsic worth of unpaid labor. This decision not only sets a precedent for future legal proceedings but also serves as a symbolic acknowledgment of the contributions of millions of homemakers across the country.

Moving forward, concerted efforts are needed to address the systemic barriers that perpetuate gender inequality in household labor. Policy interventions, such as MKM's proposal, must be complemented by broader societal changes that challenge traditional gender roles and promote shared responsibilities within households. Moreover, initiatives aimed at increasing women's access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities are essential for dismantling entrenched inequalities and fostering gender equity.

In conclusion, the recognition and valuation of unpaid labor represent crucial steps towards achieving gender equity in India. By acknowledging the contributions of homemakers and addressing the systemic barriers they face, society can move closer to realizing the principles of equality and justice for all. Only through collective action and sustained advocacy can we create a future where women are truly valued and empowered members of society. 

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