The survey also reveals that only 12.9% of fathers or male members spend time accompanying children
Time-related engagement of women in unpaid care work, such as cooking, cleaning and washing, has gone up by some 128% in urban areas.
The information contained in a survey report,“Rapid Analysis of Care Work during Covid Pandemic in Bangladesh”, was disclosed at an online event organized by Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) on Saturday.
The survey report was prepared by Sharmind Neelormi, associate professor at the Department of Economics in Jahangirnagar University. The session was organized by Formal Recognition of Women’s Unaccounted Work Forum.
The report said time spent by women in cooking, cleaning and washing remained almost the same in rural areas, but, for urban areas these engagements had gone up to about 128%.
For at least six hours a larger proportion (53.82%) of female respondents in urban areas are engaged in household work (unpaid care work), which was 42.50% before the pandemic.
For rural areas the proportion is 45.60%, which was only 34.92% earlier.
As such, women’s engagement in household activities has been increasing during pandemic.
The survey was conducted through talking to 440 responders, of whom 87% were women, 13% men and -1% third gender in rural and urban areas. About 58% were aged around 31-45.
Sharmind Neelormi said about 28% of urban women responded that their engagement with children for their education had gone up. Alarmingly, there were no activities around education in rural areas, both for children and parents.
The report found that 38% of urban children were taking online classes on laptops, phones and tabs. The proportion in rural areas is only 7% children, who mostly tune in to BTV.
Also, 76% of the respondents experienced a decline in household income during the pandemic.
What experts say
Dr Fahmida Khatun, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said women were doing household unpaid care work three times more than men. Non-SNA (System of National Account) activities should be economically evaluated in GDP.
Mahedi Masuduzzaman, deputy secretary at the Finance Division, said there was a need to better analyze the impact on women’s physical and mental health as a result of increasing work burdens.
Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid, Bangladesh said: “My mother or wife does not do anything, she lives at home - we cannot evaluate unpaid care work unless we get out of this concept. It is necessary to include unpaid work of women in national GDP estimation for raising the status and image of women in families and society.”
MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam said non-recognition of women’s unpaid work was devaluing their contributions and resulting in discrimination and violence against them.
Shoko Ishikawa, country representative of UN Women Bangladesh, said: “The pandemic unfortunately has seen an increase in unpaid care work. Now we have to find out how to give social protection for women, carry out cash distribution activities and look after disabled people. As women's workload increases, so does the risk of domestic violence and child marriage coupled with economic hardship.”
Sarah Hall, Oxfam's Women's Economic Empowerment and Care (WE-Care) program manager, noted that through these surveys, the engagement of the government, media and organizations would increase through focusing on these issues. It was necessary to look for the government’s policy redistribution for evaluating the value of household activities.
Lawmaker Saber Hossain Chowdhury stated that women engaged in informal sectors had to be specifically included in Covid-19 stimulus packages and budgetary allocations.
Women needed to be recognized for their unpaid care work, he added.