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Opinion

Open carefully – analysis

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India is gradually reopening the economy. Home deliveries, in parts, have become functional, workers are returning to factories, stores have begun to lift their blinds, and those who work from home for months will soon resume their office routines.

But in all of this, women, as always, are likely to be left behind.

This seems paradoxical. Companies have presented new jobs based on home policies. CEOs enthusiastically talk about the ease of Zoom calls and the decreased value of travel. With a pandemic-induced world of work from home, they realize the potential of another talent pool they can tap into: the 120 million women with secondary education who are not yet engaged in paid work.

Working from home models can satisfy latent demand. In a national survey, more than a third of women primarily engaged in domestic activities said they would prefer paid work if working from home was an option. And this goes beyond theories and surveys. A popular career platform for women in India saw a dramatic increase in the number of women seeking to start or restart their careers in recent months. This coincided with a 30% increase in work from home jobs on the platform in March 2020.

This seems simple. But those who work from home during the pandemic can attest that, off the computer screen, there is an equally demanding world, requiring you to answer the bell, prepare meals for the family, and care for children and the elderly. Such tasks further exacerbate the time constraints that women normally face. Even before the pandemic, for every hour of domestic work (cleaning, nutrition, cooking, teaching, administration) that Indian men put in, women put in 10, much higher than the world average of three, and one of the highest levels. high gender disparity in the unpaid. Working in the world Even with minimum wages, unpaid work could contribute $ 300 billion to the Indian economy.

Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has added to the burden of unpaid work that women already do, by 30%, according to the Dalberg consultancy. With schools closed, millions of children are now home for an indefinite period. Due to the threat of the virus, families are wary of allowing children to enter day-care centers or of allowing part-time help in their homes. Despite the fact that working from home holds great promise for women, the absence of reliable care services tips the balance against it.

Steps to accelerate and professionalize India’s care economy will ease the burden on women. Functional care centers for children and the elderly that employ safe and trained domestic workers can help women find career options. The absence of extensive national standards or certifications in India for paid child care, such as mandatory pupil-to-teacher ratios or teacher training standards, reduces the incentive for child care providers to increase quality. It also makes it harder for parents to find and evaluate good child care options. A service industry model, with accredited training and certification, can address concerns. It is also worth trying a public-private approach, where care services are seen as public goods with powerful productivity benefits for the entire economy.

A professionalized care system will earn two dividends, not only by allowing many women to work, but also by creating employment for many others. According to our estimates, the Indian care industry has the potential to absorb up to 10 million women into the workforce and create another 4 million jobs, the vast majority for women. Some countries have shown evidence in this regard. Mexico’s daycare support program for working mothers has created more than 40,000 paid jobs for community care providers and assistants (mostly women), while Singapore has created opportunities for nearly 250,000 foreign domestic workers: demand is expected for caregivers in the country grow to 300,000 by 2030.

The benefits of working women tend to decrease. For example, when children were enrolled in community nurseries in Rajasthan for prolonged periods, they showed gains in nutrition, hygiene, cognition, and school readiness.

One way to create an effective care economy is to implement “Bridgital” solutions (technology that generates more and better jobs). Child care workers, whether they are linked to a care center or work at home, can be integrated into a cloud-based management system that allows them to report on completed tasks, monitor health and other outcomes, and receive training. This will allow for real-time monitoring by supervisors and better feedback to parents. Care professionals can acquire portable credentials on such platforms, while organizations that adopt such services and standards will have an advantage in recruiting talent.

Without solving care work, we cannot take advantage of the homeworking job opportunity. By recognizing the economic logic of the care economy, India can make it easier for women to work for wages, and still reap productivity gains by doing so.

Roopa Purushothaman is the chief economist and chief policy advocate at the Tata Group, and the founder of the Avasara Leadership Institute. Anu Madgavkar is a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute. Vivek Pandit is a Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company

The opinions expressed are personal.

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