Indian men did an extra one hour of houseowrk during COVID-19 lockdown! Is gender equality in the horizon?
It is a world-known culturally-favored fact that most Indian men consider it below their dignity to do work at their own homes. A preliminary data showed that they did more housework during the COVID-19 lockdown! Does that mean that times are changing and the women of that country can see more of gender equality now? BBC reporters find out.
Indian men and clear-cut division of labor
Majority of the Indian households have a clear-cut division of labor. Most Indian men do no or little housework. The wife even if she is working outside or a professional cooks and takes care of the kids. They keep a domestic aide who does the cleaning and washes the dishes. Men only do some things here and there but with hesitation. This is because by culture, men are supposed to not do any housework. Mothers teach it to their sons and the society enforces it.
Male egos develop accordingly and they feel it below their dignity to do any cooking or caring of children lest they are ridiculed by the society.
The lockdown and its impact on Indian households
But the lockdown due to COVID-19 brought with it problems. The domestic help was unavailable. Therefore, all hell broke loose and woman of the house found it hard to do everything alone. Therefore, men had to pitch in and help out. Dr. Rahul Nagar, a dermatologist based in Delhi says:
“Pre-lockdown, for every five hours of work my wife did, I did one hour. But this pandemic has been a bolt from the blue,”
His wife is also a doctor. He added:
“During the first two months of the lockdown, we divided the chores amongst us. My wife being a government doctor couldn’t stay at home and had to work throughout. So, I stayed at home and shared the chores.
“I did the babysitting, attending his online classes, bathing him and feeding him. Throughout the lockdown, I was mopping the floor. I tried my hand at cooking and baking.”
Data on men in India and their work at home
Studies have shown that most men worked more in the house in April than they did earlier. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), an independent think tank, found out that men in India worked an extra hour in April 2020 compared to December 2019. They had studied 43,600 people. Hence during the lockdown, both men and women worked more at home. Women were still putting in more work compared to men at home but the percentage of ‘extra’ housework done by men was more compared to women.
In December 2019, it was 1.5 hours for men and 2.5 hours in April 2020. And same figures for women were 4.0 hours and 4.6 hours. Delhi, TN, and HP fared better than MP or Chhattisgarh.
But is this change temporary or likely to get permanent? Ashwini Deshpande, Professor of Economics at Ashoka University said:
“We won’t know until September when the next set of CMIE data will be available. We can only hope this trend persists.”
But there is some anecdotal evidence that the new wind of change did persist in the later months as well. Let us all keep our fingers crossed!