Yangchen C Rinzin

Bhutanese people in general spent about 48 percent of their day on personal care and maintenance, according to the Valuing Unpaid Care Work in Bhutan 2020 report.

The personal care includes sleeping, eating, physical fitness, hygiene, health care, resting and relaxing, and travel related to personal care.

The report, which is also an Asian Development Bank’s economic working paper series, showed that both men and women devoted almost same time to personal care and maintenance — 11 hours in a day.

Men devoted more time to paid work and women more to unpaid work.

It was found that on an average men had spent 85 minutes more on paid work per day compared with women who spent around 2 hours, 11 minutes more on unpaid work, which included both housework and caregiving services.

Unpaid care work is increasingly being recognised as critical for sustaining people’s daily lives, yet it remains invisible to many policy makers, economists, and national statisticians. As yet, it is excluded from conventional national income accounts.

The report showed that men also spent 16 minutes more than women on leisure activities and 18 minutes more on community services. Women spent around 15 percent of their time during a typical day on housework and caregiving, whereas men spent only around six percent of their time on these activities.

Unpaid work, according to the report, falls outside conventional definitions of what counts as work and is unaccounted for in the national accounting system. This is because unpaid care work largely consists of activities like cooking, cleaning, caring for children, the sick, and the elderly.

It is an important aspect of economic activity and the burden of unpaid care work is particularly borne by the women that underlie gender inequality.

Unpaid care work is still viewed as the natural duty of women.

More than 95 percent of women participated in household maintenance and management; only 61 percent of men did so. In terms of unpaid caregiving services, the participation rate for women was almost three times higher than that for men.

“This indicates that household maintenance and management, and the provision of unpaid caregiving services to household members, were predominantly performed by women,” report stated.

Women spent more than twice the amount of time spent by men on all unpaid housework and care giving. Men spent more on the travel related to household maintenance and management. For instance, while 91 percent of women participated in cooking, only 43 percent of men did.

“This means women spent at least some time during the day cooking. Three time as many women as men devoted some time to dishwashing, cleaning and upkeep of the household, laundry, and caring for children,” the report concludes.

Women residing in urban areas devoted 23 more minutes per day on unpaid housework and nine minutes more per day on unpaid caregiving services than the rural women.

“This could be because rural women devote more time to informal agricultural and related activities to supplement the family income,” the report stated.

The report also found that time devoted to unpaid caregiving grew larger for both men and women as household size increased. Women in all age groups devoted more than twice the amount of time to unpaid work than even men aged 75 years and above.

The report revealed that unpaid care work in Bhutan had a total of annual value of Nu 23.51 billion, equivalent to 16 percent of GDP. Women generated over two-thirds of the estimated monetary value of unpaid work.

Most of the data presented in this paper were from 2015.

“This was a deliberate choice, as that was the year of the most recent GNH Survey Report and for better comparability,” the report.

ADB recommended to maintain consistency of employment categories across years, measure within the family unit and inequality in the time spent on unpaid care, among others, to improve the measurement of unpaid care work in Bhutan.