Does It Matter How Hard the Work Is?

Article excerpt

Promotion of labour intensive work raises the demand for the endowment that the poor have, and may be a cost-effective means to raising entitlements to the commodities required to meet basic needs. Raising women's income through employment may be especially beneficial, given greater propensity to spend their income on health, nutrition and education for their children. Social welfare services targeted on women enhance these synergies and may be empowering in both tactical and strategic ways. Participation in wage employment and home-based productive work can raise the perceived contribution and social valuation and inclusion of women. Like labour-intensive employment, self-targeting through the labour test also works through the labour endowment of the poor, since it should screen out those who are better off. Similarly, technologies such as the treadle pump in Bangladesh, which uses human labour to pump irrigation water, can be expected to be attractive to people willing to work physically hard for relativel y low returns, either on land they cultivate themselves or as wage labourers for others. They may also be environmentally-friendly, in that the use of fossil fuel is reduced. This consensus gives rise to concerns about additional burdens that women may consequently face.

Employment and participation in social welfare and targeted safety net programmes will make additional demands on the time of already burdened women; time-use studies typically show the long (and longer than male) working hours of women. It is also often argued that poor women are relatively deprived of food and other basic needs by gendered inequalities in intra-household allocations of consumption, expenditure on health, work burden and so on. We suggest that "effort" may well be the more appropriate concept to assess the burden of work than time, and its productivity, especially for nutritionally challenged persons. Employment and safety nets, which are effort-intensive, may not contribute so much to the reduction of poverty as similar activities that are less effort-intensive; after all, the main objective must be interventions that are entitlement- or capability-intensive The poor may be more burdened by the effort to reward ratio of livelihood activities (their low productivity), given their capabiliti es, than they are by time constraints. The two accounts are not incompatible, perhaps, if it is their low capability to exert effort that forces the poor to adopt a slow work pace which then makes time the limiting factor.

Time is a metric that is common to everyone, and "time famine" is reflected in longer working hours of women and their concentration in household and reproductive activities. …