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Seminar by Ms Shraddha Jain: 6 March

A seminar on “Bargaining over Care within Households: The Case of Women in Low Paid Occupations in the National Capital Region, India” was held at the Joan Robinson Hall on 6 March, 2020. The seminar was presented by Ms Shraddha Jain, PhD Scholar, CDS. The seminar was chaired by Professor J. Devika, CDS.

Abstract:  This paper analyses negotiation and bargaining over the organisation and distribution of child care responsibilities within households of women who work in low-income occupations in the NCR. Interviews were conducted with 75 working women in the occupations of domestic work, construction labour, factory labour, security and housekeeping services and drivers.  We identify three ways in which child care was organised and understand the process through which they arrived at these outcomes.

In the first category, we observe women resort to separate spheres by providing full time child care when the children were very young. However, as children grew and economic needs/aspiration started to grow, they negotiated for their entry into paid work. This process of bargaining is contingent upon possible alternatives of care arrangements and potential support/cooperation from the spouse and family. For these women, caring as a process evolved over the life-cycle. During initial years they ‘cared about’ providing full-time care to children and family. However, with migration and evolving knowledge of what to care about, they changed their pathways of care-giving.

The second outcome was that women provided full-time care only to the older children and not to younger children. We could observe two sub-categories within this group. In the first, mothers’ full -time care was replaced by care provided by older siblings, especially girls. However, the second group made other arrangements for the children. Overall, we observe a modified version of separate spheres in which older siblings or someone else replaced the mother. In a few cases, we observe traces of cooperative and non-cooperative bargaining among partners. The caring process for this group as a whole slightly differed from the first category. Given their economic needs, women prioritised making monetary provisions over providing full-time child care themselves. This suggests caring as a process, does not account for orderly sequenced phases leading to a particular activity.

Women in the third category didn’t provide full-time care to young children. The negotiation lay between separate spheres and cooperative bargaining. Prior knowledge of job opportunities, aspirations and economic needs conditioned their entry into paid work. Other enabling factors were availability of alternative child care arrangements and nature of occupation for both men and women. Few fathers could make adjustments with their jobs to facilitate their spouse’s entry into paid work. Overall, this group suggested a different caring process that emerge from aspirations for better life at present and in future and that does not rely too much on full-time care by mothers themselves.

The analysis brings forth that most women juggle between social mobility (through women’ seclusion from paid work), and class mobility (better education and lifestyle). In the process they had to negotiate social roles and notions of masculinity.