An autonomous research institute under the Ministry of Finance


Covid19 and Unpaid Care Economy: Evidence on Fiscal Policy and Time Allocation in India

Publication date

Feb, 2022


NIPFP Working Paper No. 372


Lekha Chakraborty


Against the backdrop of covid19 pandemic, measuring unpaid care economy is significant to capture the roles and well-being of men and women. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down the global economy, however there is an increasing recognition that the care economy was “working harder than ever”. The economists and policymakers are increasingly getting aware of the consistently ignored care economy in their models and macroeconomic policies. This paper analyses the unpaid care sector in India using the recent Time Use Survey 2020 and explores the fiscal policy measures to address the sector. In India, the Time Use Survey was conducted in 1999-2000, for only selected six States of India. After twenty years, Government of India published the second macro-level Time Use Survey for all the States and Union Territories in India. The chronology of 1440 minutes a day coded into economic activities under Systems of National Accounts (SNA) and Non-SNA in the Time Use Survey 2020 provides evidence for time poverty and time stress, especially for women in rural and urban India. Time poverty affects the income poverty. The allocation and efficiency of nonmarket working time in the unpaid care economy is important for economic growth along with market working time. As the macro policies are constructed only on the basis of market economy, the nonmarket work in the unpaid care economy continues to remain statistically invisible. The link between fiscal policy and time allocation suggest that worsening public infrastructure investment affects the market work with evident gender differentials. The fiscal policies designed to redress income poverty can be partial if we do not take into account the aspects of time poverty. In the post-pandemic fiscal strategy, strengthening the “Employer of Last Resort” (ELR) policy is crucial for tackling the plummeting employment and the humanitarian crisis. However, unless a comprehensive care economy policy is integrated in the Public Financial Management (PFM) tool like gender budgeting to tackle the time poverty in India, the efficacy of such ELR policies can be partial, due to significant gender differentials in accessing the ELR fiscal space.
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