Recounting Major State Policies That Promote the Male Breadwinner Model

Recounting Major State Policies That Promote the Male Breadwinner Model

Shruti Appalla (Institute of Public Policy, National Law School of India University, India) and Sony Pellissery (Institute of Public Policy, National Law School of India University, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2819-8.ch013
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The male breadwinner model is a system of family organization where the male adult is the primary earning member while the wife is considered to be a stay-at-home mother responsible for managing the household and child rearing. It is particularly seen to be prevalent in India where it is reinforced by traditional norms separating women from public spaces. While cultural and religious norms perpetuate this stereotype of an ideal family, the model has also received a lot of support in state policies and laws. This chapter attempts to focus on policies in fields like identity, inheritance, maintenance, labour, and property law that have until recently or continue to relegate women to the position of an invisible supporting wage earner in the family. It specifically focuses on deficits in childcare policies. It traces the consequence of these policies in reducing labour force participation rates and perpetuating patriarchal norms in society. In the process, the chapter explains the rise of the model from industrial Europe, its manifestation in a non-Western society like India, and its hopeful decline.
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At an enrollment drive for a union, Anita Devi (40) and Sangeeta (20) wait to fill out forms. Both of them are domestic workers at the police colony in Cigarettewala Bagh, New Delhi. Sangeeta works at one house and earns about a thousand rupees per month to her husband’s nine thousand. Her income is critical for the daily expenditures needed to run the household each month. Anita on the other hand works in five houses. Their work days begin at 9 AM and end at 6 pm in the evening. They come back to the slum for an hour and feed the children during lunch. They aren’t allowed to get their children to work (Appalla, 2018). Once their work day is over, they come back to the house to take care of the family and complete their own house work. When asked if they hoped the enrollment into a union for domestic workers would help them, they explain how they’ve already filled multiple ‘forms’ for organizations and government schemes but nothing seems to have helped yet. Needless to say, as migrants who have left behind families in Samastipur in Bihar, they had hoped for a far more secure livelihood in Delhi. But work is hard to come by and prolonged employment is uncertain in any house.

Anita and Sangeeta are not heads of their households or primary breadwinners. In fact, the majority of their day spent completing domestic tasks and looking after the children, is not even considered ‘work’.

They are part of an estimated group of 4 million women in India that work as informal domestic workers ( Apart from domestic work (which includes cleaning of homes, washing clothes, cooking) and care work, women in India are also employed in large numbers as factory workers primarily in the garment and textile industry. The non-urban workforce on the other hand is often either engaged in agricultural farm labor or work as market gardeners and crop growers. As per the 2001 Census, a total of 127 million females were considered to be part of the workforce in India which meant that 25.6% of the total females in the country were workers (Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India). By World Bank calculations based on the ILO estimate (taking into consideration working women 15+ years and above) the female labour force participation rate (LFPR) in 2001 was around 30%. Unfortunately, after 2005 when the LFPR rose to its highest ever at about 32%, it plummeted drastically to a mere 23% in 2012 and has only marginally increased since then (The World Bank Group, 2019). In 2015-16, it fell further to about 20.2% according to NSSO estimates (Ranade, 2018).

There have been multiple reasons attributed to the drastic reduction in female LFPR. These include younger women joining education institutions for further studies (Bhalla & Kaur, 2011), or women finding it hard to join back for work after having a child. Further, the inaccessibility of jobs has increased since the amendments in the Maternity Benefit Act were brought into effect because employers didn’t want to provide the benefits it prescribes (Ranade, 2018). Contrarily, according to Sonalde Desai, female labor force participation has a U-shaped relationship with income (Desai &Joshi, 2019). As the income of women increases with doing less time at work, they tend to spend more time in leisure or at home.

But a far more socially entrenched reason for the falling female labor force participation rate has been attributed to the Male Breadwinner Model. The model deals with the perception of family organization world over. It foregrounds a lot of succeeding analysis on the accessibility of women to wage work, the working conditions, gendered experiences of earning and prospering in a job, organizing for collective interest and the value of non-wage work. It is the understanding of the researchers of this chapter that a discussion on women and work in the subcontinent is incomplete without fully understanding the consequences of the Male Breadwinner model. Further, multiple authors before have pointed to how the cultural context of India may have led to the rise of the male breadwinner in India (Deshpande, 2019; Janssens, 1998; Sen, 1998).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Shradha: Term in the Hindu religion used to refer to ritual ceremony performed on the death of an ancestor, often parents to pay homage and seek their welfare in the afterlife. It is commonly believed as explained in Hindu scriptures that moksha or salvation in the afterlife can only be attained by the deceased if the ritual is performed by sons or male relatives of the deceased.

Labor Force Participation: Refers to the population in a country that is either employed or seeking employment within the age group 16-64 years. It’s often measured in the form of a rate i.e. the sum of both employed and unemployed person as a percentage of the population of the country that is of a working age.

Breadwinner: Term used to refer to that member of the family that is primarily responsible for bringing in income into the family. It is presumed that the income is then used for feeding the members of the family and fulfilling other household needs.

Sewa: The Self-Employed Women’s Association or SEWA is a trade union for self-employed women, first started in the state of Gujarat in India by Ela Bhatt. Over time, SEWA has grown to other states in the country with a membership of over 1.75 million and now represents one of the largest successful efforts to collectivize women workers into a movement for financial independence and social security.

Stridhan: Literally, it translates from Hindi to a ‘women’s wealth’. As per Hindu Personal Law, it is composed of the property, assets or jewelry that a woman may receive over the course of her life but is often mostly acquired at the time of her marriage.

Aadhaar: A unique identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to all residents of India.

Hindu Undivided Family: Term used to describe the extended Hindu family descendent form a common ancestor. Popularly termed the joint family, it includes all related members living under a common roof.

Women’s Unpaid Work: Refers to work that includes but is not limited to reproductive, care and domestic work done within the extended boundaries of the household that provides no direct monetary remuneration to the woman. It is often devalued as opposed to an employment that receives monetary remuneration.

Anganwadi: Literally translates to a ‘courtyard shelter’ in Hindi and some other Indian languages. Popularly it is used to describe a childcare center under the Integrated Child Development Services Program.

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