Do Women Work in India? A Review of Women's Studies on Women's Work

  • Hildegard Scheu (Autor/in)

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This review of Women's Studies in India provides a brief synopsis of the major issues and findings of research undertaken in the last ten years on women's economic participation. Special attention has been paid to several conceptual and methodological problems and biases in the estimation and recording of women's work. Recent data provides strong evidence that the economic contribution of women is not marginal; on the contrary, it is essential for the survival of their families, thereby playing a crucial role in the maintenance of the prevalent subsistence economy in India. The bulk of subsistence labour is done by women, who work as a rule many more hours than men. The characteristics of women's work, i .e. that a good deal of it is carried out at home, that strictly economic activity is integrated with household work, and that their subsistence work is normally unpaid, conceal their economic contribution - it tends to be "invisible", unrecorded and unrewarded. Analyses of the increasing participation of women in agricultural wage labour within the context of their low and declining participation in the labour force support the hypothesis of an increasing impoverishment of a considerable part of the rural population, thus forcing women into wage labour. Studies on the impact of agricultural development on women have revealed that current development strategies have exacerbated the discrimination against women as regards access to land and other means of production, skilled jobs, employment training and income.