Household chores are jobs, too. Centre to survey ‘unpaid work’ by women

Women make up 49% of 1.3-billion-strong nation and spend 352 minutes a day on unpaid work.

New Delhi: India is trying to improve its jobs statistics with time-use surveys to estimate the value of unpaid work, especially household chores by women.

The government plans to start a yearlong exercise in January to survey households on how they spend their time, Debi Prasad Mondal, director general of the National Sample Survey Office, said in an interview in New Delhi.

Its findings will be released around June 2020 and the plan is to repeat it every three years.
“We will be able to understand how much time is spent in cooking and washing,” Mondal said July 26. The findings would give policy makers more information about employment in the economy and how to target welfare programs.

About 700 million Indians aren’t part of the workforce and their contribution at home isn’t recorded in the national income.

In India, women make up 49% of the 1.3-billion-strong nation and spent about 352 minutes a day on unpaid work against 51.8 minutes by men.


  • India’s GDP can grow by 27% if women’s participation in the economy is raised to same level as those of men, according to a research by the International Monetary Fund.
  • The rate of women’s presence in the labour force is declining even as nearly 43% of them earn more than or equal to their spouses, the finance ministry’s Economic Survey showed.

Policy Implications

  • A breakdown of how women spend time can help design policies that make their lives easier and bring electoral gains for governments.
  • A case in point is Modi’s program to provide cooking gas in rural India to help women save time spent in collecting firewood.
  • A time-use survey will show how women are using this spare time.
  • The data can help policy makers draw inference for employment and welfare programs for women, and generate more reliable estimates of work force and national income.

The challenge

  • The challenge for the government will be to put the data to use and address issues such as gender equality, women empowerment and unemployment.
  • India first conducted pilots on time-use in six states in 1998, but didn’t follow it up with full-fledged surveys in last 20 years.
  • The national survey that will include India’s 150,000 households.
Show More