Summary on:-

Labour Force Participation and Time Management of Women in Slums in Coimbatore District”

Conducted by

Department of Economics

Avinashlingam Institute For Home Science and Higher Education for Women Coimbatore




          Women play a paramount role in the socio-economic development of a country.  In fact, the pace of economic development of a country can be accelerated by enhancing the status, position and living conditions of women  in a country. Traditionally, a woman’s place was at home and her employment outside home was looked upon with disfavour.  She moved within the narrow sphere of her kitchen, cookery, child bearing and rearing, catering to the relatives, in-laws and husband comprised her work and life activities.  But now the situation has changed.  Trade liberalization has created greater opportunities for educated, professional women as well as men.  Yet, the increasing market competition has intensified its pressure on the poorer sections of the society, particularly poor women.  They not only have to perform their traditional role of providing care to other members of the households, but also have to look for paid employment as well to supplement the income of the household.  Women’s work in the household, in subsistence agriculture and such activities is generally not considered to be economically productive and is either not accounted for or is grossly under valued if counted.


2.            Household labour is not calculated as paid work, its contribution to the economy is typically undervalued or ignored.  One of the reasons for this is that there is no quantification methodology for them.  The performers of such activities do not see any realization of their work done in monetary terms.   In this context, it is also stressed that reliable techniques have to be developed to measure the contribution of women to the family, especially non-monetary contributions


3.            Estimates of the monetary value of unpaid work raise questions about the nature of domestic labour in relation to the economic order of industrial capitalism.  Secombe (1973) argues that since domestic labour does not relate directly either to the process of production or the process of market exchange, the house wife does not produce ‘surplus value’ and consequently is not exploited in the same sense as wage labour, since the results of her efforts are rewarded and consumed within the home.  In contrast, Dalla Costa and James (1972) claim housework is a form of productive labour in that through child rearing it reproduces the supply of labour as well as daily maintaining the labour power of those who work for a wage.  There is yet another argument that the categories of ‘productive’ and ‘unproductive’ labour are wholly irrelevant to the analysis of housework which constitutes special economic category of its own.  Despite these theoretical differences, it is generally agreed that domestic labour is an integral and necessary part of a capitalist economy and the social relations of work (Mary Evans and David Morgan, 1979).


4.         The Female Economic Activity Rate (FEAR) ranged from 55.6 percent in Australia and 55 percent in Indonesia to 82.9 percent in Mozambique.  For India, the FEAR was 42 percent (Human Development Report, 2001).  As per the NSSO 55th Round on Employment and Unemployment in India (1999-2000), in rural areas, female work participation rate was the highest at 58.6 percent in the age group of 40-44 years and was above 50 percent in the age group 30-54 years.  In urban areas, female work participation rate was highest at 28.5 percent in the age group 35-39 years and was 28.3 percent in the age group of 40-44 years.


5.         All this does not really mean that there is any reduction in the burden of women to maintain and manage the household.   More women are now spending far more time in the labour force than before but they still have to invariably take the responsibility of home and family care, consequently sacrificing their leisure and personal care time.  Still rarely does men take the initiative in sharing the responsibilities of household maintenance and caring children


Time use surveys in India and in other countries


6.         With the emergence of the developing countries on the scene in the last decade of 20th century, time use survey in netting the economic work of women and thereby improving work force statistics and national income statistics has merited the attention of data collecting agencies.  It is now gradually getting accepted that time use survey is a survey technique, in fact, the only survey technique that is available to us at present, that provides a comprehensive information on how the individuals spend their time on daily and weekly basis and reveals the details of an individual’s daily life with the combination of specificity and comprehensiveness not achieved in any other social survey.  Data collected under time use survey does not have any social-cultural bias as the information collected refers only to how individuals, spend their time since the information is collected for all the twenty four hours and no activities is likely to be missed out.


7.         It is by now largely undisputed that non market household production is an economic activity sharing many characteristics with market production and linked to the market as, for instance, in decision relating to time allocation between paid and unpaid work.  Recently, various studies have been carried out to find out the time allocation between paid and unpaid work of women.  The prominent studies among these in India are:


(i)                 The amount used and values of leisure time of 140 homemakers both employed and unemployed by Nalini Ogale and Gyaneshwari Ranawat (1973);

(ii)                The study on the factors affecting the utilization of time in performing household activities by rural homemakers in the Narangawali village in Ludhiana district by Dhesi and Sandhu (1975);

(iii)              The time utilization pattern by tribal and non tribal women in home and farm activities by Sumarani Bhatnagar and Daya Saxena (1988);

(iv)              Time utilization pattern of the rural women in Atkur village on their actual performance of household activities from the time of rise, to the time of retiring to bed at night by Lakshmi Devi (1988);

(v)               The average time disposition of rural labour households of a Kerala village carried out by Kutty Krishnan and Suchetha Kumary (1989);

(vi)              The time allocation to non market work of urban women in Madras by Malathi (1994) for the period 1980-81,

(vii)            Extensive research on the amount of time spent by men and women on market and non market activities in 14 industrial countries, 9 developing countries and 8 countries in Eastern Europe and Common Wealth of Independent States by the World Bank (Human Development Report, 1995).

(viii)           Time utilization pattern of Gaddi tribal women in Himachal Pradesh by Kishtwari (1999) and

(ix)              Time use survey conducted by the Central Statistical Organisation (2000) covering 18,591 household in six major states, viz., Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Orissa and Tamil Nadu during July 1998 to June 1999.


8.         The macro level time use survey conducted by the CSO (2000) covering six major states in India is yet another elaborative work covering 18,591 households.  According to the survey on an average, in a week, on extended SNA activities male spent only about 3.6 hours as compared to 34.6 hours by females.  The amount of unpaid activities was more (51%) for female as compared to only 33% for male.


9.         An extensive work was seen in the World Bank work reported in Human Development Report (1995) in which it was pointed out that of the total burden of work, women on an average carried 53 percent in developing countries and 51 percent in industrial countries.  Further it was also reported that of men’s total work time in industrial countries, roughly two thirds was spent in paid SNA activities and one-third in unpaid non-SNA activities.  For women, her shares were reversed.  In developing countries, more than three-fourths of men’s work was in SNA activities.  So men receive the lion’s share of income and recognition, for their economic contribution, while most of women’s work remains unpaid, unrecognized and undervalued. 


10.     The objectives of time-use surveys in developed countries vary from country to country.  Nepal conducted its first ever time budget study in 1976-77 relating to 1059 individuals from 192 households from eight villages located in different parts of the country.  The time budget studies were developed,

(i)          to provide a useful tool to study two dynamics of development-activities shifting household sector to market (eg food processing and cooking) and from market to households (eg driving services in developed countries);

(ii)        to have a more accurate estimate of gross domestic product and women’s contribution and

(iii)       to monetise the voluntary community services.


11.       The findings of the survey showed that GDP more than doubles if all goods and services produced for household consumption and household maintenance activities are accounted for.  Women contribute about 63 percent of the total amount and 27.5 percent of regular GDP.  Their contribution to non-market (but within SNA) products amounts to 58.3 percent and to household maintenance activities to 92.8 percent.


12.       The Australian Bureau of Statistics developed its time-use survey in 1987 in the context of widespread awareness of the need for better information about the activities of women in Australian society.  Subsequently, in 1992 and 1997, two more national surveys were conducted using a 48 hours self-enumerated diary coded to an activity classification derived from that developed in the Szalai Multinational Project 1972, the major objectives of the surveys being


(i)                  to facilitate the analysis of labour force policies for women;

(ii)                to complement data on paid employment generated through monthly Labour Survey and information about  related topics such as child care and the characteristics of persons not in the labour force; and

(iii)               to allow government to minotor the status of women in labour force in relation to family and household responsibilities and to develop programs to promote future behavior.



13.       An analysis of time-use patterns in Australia shows the large extent to which household tasks are assigned by gender.  In 1997, women were found to spend nearly twice as much time as men on committed time activities-domestic activities, child care, purchasing goods and services and voluntary work and care (33 percent of the  working hours compared with 17 percent).  The high commitment by women to all aspects of unpaid work particularly to domestic activities and child care is reflected in their contribution to its imputed monetary value.


14.       In 1990, Statistics, New Zealand undertook a pilot time-use survey mainly to test methodology rather than to produce time-use statistics.  The time-use survey was conducted from July 1998 to June 1999.  The survey identified


(i)                  the actual hours that people spent doing paid work;

(ii)                the amount of time the people spent on health and maintenance activities;

(iii)               the characteristics of people participating in different types of voluntary work;

(iv)              time spent on carrying work and characteristics of the people who were doing it;

(v)                where people were at different times of the day and week; and

(vi)              the times of the day when people were traveling


15.       Since the 1995 World Women’s Meeting in Beijing, Japan had shown a keen interest in measuring the economic value of the invisible work done in the household.  There are two major surveys on time-use in Japan.  One is the survey on time-use and leisure activities (by the Statistics Bureau) and the other is NHK’s time use survey (by NHK’s., Japan Broadcasting Corporation).  The survey of the Statistics Bureau is a large scale sample survey to obtain comprehensive data on the actual state of people’s daily life that cannot be fully covered by economic statistics.  In fact, the survey was first conducted in 1976.  Since then, it has been carried out every five years.


 The  Current Study


 16.      The current study on “Labour Force Participation and Time Management of Women-A Case Study of Women in Slums in Coimbatore District”  has been undertaken  in the context of the multifaceted roles that women have to perform and also the economic necessity which urges the women to undertake menial jobs which requires no skill.  The study tries to bring out the hard reality of life that women enter in the labour market with a huge burden of unpaid domestic work on their head.  The need to make macro level policies that could integrate paid and unpaid work, to reduce women’s drudgery and their burden of extended SNA activities is yet another area which merits attention.  The study helps to analyze the time use pattern of the poor so as to draw inferences for employment and welfare programmers for them with the following objectives.


(i)                 to analyze the household characteristics of the study group;

(ii)                to study the demographic and socio-economic profile of the selected population;

(iii)              to estimate the employment status of women in terms of age, size of the family, caste, marital status and educational level;

(iv)              to obtain comprehensive data on the daily average time spent by both men and women on SNA, extended SNA and non-SNA activities;

(v)               to find out gender discrimination in carrying out unpaid work;

(vi)              to monetise the extended SNA activities performed by women;

(vii)            to examine the importance of selected socio-economic factors in discriminating women on the amount of time spent on extended SNA and non SNA activities; and

(viii)           to analyze the extent of dependence between the amount of time spent on extended SNA and non SNA activities and selected socio-economic factors.


Field Survey for the study


17.       For this study, a survey was conducted in 2000 households spreading over 11 divisions categorized by the Slum Clearance Board and falling under the Coimbatore Corporation Limited.  1000 households from rural and 1000 from urban areas have been selected. The Data collected by the surveyors have been tabulated and number of Tables has been generated on the following aspects of the population.  

a.                   Demographic and Socio–economic profile of the surveyed population

b.                  Female Labour Force participation

c.                   Time Use pattern among slum population



18. Findings of the study


Objective 1 :  The household characteristics of the study group.


·        The average households size was 3.97 in rural areas and 4.12 in urban. In rural areas, 71 percent of the households were nuclear type and in urban 59 percent of the households were nuclear.

·        Percentage of population aged 60 years and above was 6.82 percent in rural areas and 5.17 percent in urban areas.  The proportion of population in working ages, namely 15-29, 30-44 and 45-59 were 30.14 percent, 22.83 percent and 13.11 percent in rural areas and 31.49 percent, 23.12 percent and 12.42 percent respectively in urban areas. 


Objective 2 :  The demographic and socio-economic profile of the selected      population.

·        In rural areas, nearly 90 percent of the households were agricultural labourers and none of these households were self-employed professional.  In urban areas about 54 percent of the households were casual labourers and 34.7 percent were salary earners.

·        In rural areas, about 95 percent of the sample units possessed their own homestead and in urban 84 percent possessed own.  But only 1.9 percent of the households in rural areas and 6.7 percent of the households in urban areas were living in pucca houses.

·        Overall, only about 6 percent households in rural areas and 8 percent in urban areas were headed by women.

·        About 49 percent of the households in rural and 23 percent in urban areas were in the highest per capita expenditure class of more than Rs. 560 in rural and Rs. 825 in urban areas.  About 11 percent of the households in the rural and 36 percent in urban areas were having monthly per capita expenditure of less than Rs. 355 and Rs. 490 respectively. 

·        The proportion of unmarried (aged above 18 years) was high among the males in both rural and urban areas.  The incidence of widowhood among females was higher than males in both rural and urban areas.  The proportion of divorced/separated was negligible in rural areas with 0.46 percent.  In urban areas it was negligible excepting in one division.

·        The prevalence of disability among the surveyed population was 1.46 percent in rural areas and marginally less in urban areas with 0.94 percent.

·        There was no rural-urban differential to female participation in decision-making in the families in the surveyed areas.


                   Objective 3:  The employment status of women.


·        In rural areas, while 49 percent of the women were working, in urban areas it was 31 percent.  About 58 percent of the working women in rural areas were in the active working age group of 15-35 years and 38 percent fall in 36-59 years and 4 percent in 60 + years.  In urban areas, 48 percent of workingwomen were in the active working age group of 15-35 years and 47 percent in 36-59 years and 5 percent in the age group 60 and above.

·        The percentage of employed males was marginally higher (81.18 percent) in rural areas, compared to 77.95 percent for males in urban areas. 

·        More than 90 percent of the workingwomen were either married or widowed or separated.  About one percent of the workingwomen in both rural and urban areas were separated from their husbands.

·        About 91.82 percent of workingwomen in rural areas were in full time jobs and this percentage was 65.60 in urban areas.

·        Nearly 93 percent of the workingwomen were in the unorganised sector in rural areas and only 19.4 percent of the women in urban areas were in organized sector.

·        The proportion of working women in both rural and urban areas was less when their husband’s income exceeded Rs.2000.

·         The percentage of employed males was marginally higher (81.18 percent) in rural areas, compared to 77.95 percent for males in urban areas. 


             Objective 4 : Average time spent on different activities by men and women.


·        On an average in rural areas, males spent about 6.223  hours in a day on SNA activities; and 0.7155 hours on extended SNA activities.  Females spent about 2.8252 hours on SNA and 3.4466 hours on extended SNA activities in a day in rural areas.

·        In urban areas, the time spent by females on SNA activities was only 1.6374 hours, much less than the time spent by males on the same activity (5.3108).  Females spent about 5.8457 hours in a day on extended SNA activities while males spent only about 1.6487 hours.

·        Both in rural and in urban areas, the average time spent on SNA activities by working females was higher than the time they spent on ESNA activities.  In rural areas working females spent 7.9 hours on SNA activities and 4.31 hours on ESNA activities.  In urban areas, the figures were 7.59 and 6.01 hours respectively.  Males spent negligible amount of time on ESNA activities.  In rural areas working males spent only 0.76 hours. 

·        In urban areas, males in the age group of 15-29 years, spent nearly three times more on SNA activities when compared to female population.  In the same age group, females devoted nearly four times that of their counterpart on ESNA activities.  The time spent on Non-SNA activities was slightly higher for males (15.28 hours) when compared to females (14.36 hours).  In the older generation, males spent more time on SNA and ESNA activities when compared to females, while the later spent more time on Non-SNA activities. 

·        Combining rural and urban, the working population who were in the age group of 15-59 years spent about 8.86 hours on SNA activities, 2.48 hours on ESNA and 12.66 hours on Non-SNA activities.  In rural areas the working males in the age group15-59 spent 9.41 hours on SNA, 0.76 hours on ESNA and 13.83 hours on Non-SNA activities.  The figures for working females were 7.95 hours, 4.41 hours and 11.64 hours respectively.

·        An analysis on the average time spent by both males and females based on their marital status, excluding the children below 14 years age, revealed that, excepting for the unmarried in the age group below 15 years. Males spent more time on SNA activities compared to females.  Females spent more on SNA activities in the case of unmarried above 18 years of age.  In urban areas, irrespective of their marital status, females spent more time on ESNA activities when compared to SNA activities. Whether working or not, whether in rural or in urban areas, females spent lesser time (1.69) hours) on social, religious community and other related activities and usage of mass media compared to males (2.61) hours on these activities.


Objective 5:  Gender discrimination in  carrying out unpaid work.


·        In rural areas, working males spent about 11.81 hours on personal care and self-maintenance, while working females spent about 10.96 hours.  In urban areas, the time spent by both males and females in these activities were 10.2 hours and 9.56 hours respectively.  In the case of non working females, they spent much time (12.79 hours) on these activities compared to their counterparts (11.94 hours)

·        Females spent 1.86 hours per day on cooking and 0.97 hours on washing clothes and cleaning utensils and cleaning the house.  But the participation of males was just nominal with 0.01 hours and 0.02 hours respectively for the same activities.  Women in urban areas spent about 2.24 hours on cooking and 1.69 hours on washing clothes and cleaning utensils and house.  Women in rural areas spent only 1.47 hours and 1.20 hours respectively for the same activities. 


 Objective  6: Monetisation of extended  SNA activities of women.


·        Coking, washing the utensils, washing the clothes and cleaning the house were estimated through details collected from families situated in areas nearby the selected slums.  In rural areas, the per capita monthly expenses incurred were Rs. 40 for each of these activities. 

·        The mean hours spent on ESNA activities by males significantly differed from that of the mean hours spent by females on ESNA activities in all the areas under study excepting DB Road in urban areas. 

·        The number of hours spent on ESNA and NSNA activities by the selected population aged above s14 years was not independent of sex, age, marital status, educational level and work status


             Objective  7:  Socio  economic factors in discriminating women.


·        Whether a woman was married or not and whether she worked or not she had to bear the burden of carrying out the ESNA activities.  Similarly, irrespective of the size of the family and family income the females had to shoulder the responsibilities of carrying out the ESNA activities.


   Objective  8:  Dependence between the time spent on extended SNA and Non- SNA                   activities and selected socio-economics for women.


·        ‘Work status’ of the females was found to have a positive significant influence on the number of hours spent on ESNA activities. 

·        The age of the females had the highest discriminating power of 70.29 percent in rural areas, followed by the number of dependents in the family with a relative discriminating power of 9.06 percent.  Age of the females, the number of dependents in the family, educational level of the females (8.72 percent), size of the family (5.56 percent) and the work status (3.50 percent) of the females put together had a relative discriminating power of about 91 percent in discriminating the women in rural areas. 

·        In rural areas, the most important variable in discriminating females based on the number of hours they spent on NSNA activities was the work status of the females with a relative discriminating power of 75.39 percent.  Income of the respondent was the second most important variable with a relative discriminating power of 21.16 percent.

·        In urban areas, also, work status of the females was the most important variable in discriminating women base on the number of hours they spent on NSNA activities with a relative discriminating power of 82.13 percent.    But the respondent’s income had zero effect in discriminating the two groups.  Similar, was the case with family income, which did not exhibit significant difference in discriminating women on the number of hours spent on NSNA activities.