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Let Economics Stay Humane

By Shreya Kumar

…and if the trick of the serpent actually worked, it was not just to end Eve’s role in the Garden of Eden, but to reinforce the element of certainty in Adam’s role—that, a man can still have the forbidden fruit without being convicted.

Maybe Eve was humble enough to let Adam have half the apple which was wrongfully hers.

Maybe the serpent knew that the forbidden fruit would forbid Eve ‘forever’.

The parched ground and the fluidity of economics are currently being revolutionised. As more and more research takes place, the objectivity with respect to diminishing development, is highlighting the limitations of premises underlying varied policies running the world. Economics is rapidly wounding up the deep scars inflicted upon the patriarch-focused-development; and what we term as a new ideology— has been kept hidden, and is sadly stinking at our own abode. That ideology is not-so-famously termed as ‘Feminist Ideology’; and so ladies and gentlemen, let us all welcome ‘Feminist Economics’ in our thought process— the very place which banishes it from being, and building.

Can a woman ever be considered as an economic asset? Can the norms stemming out of age-old traditions and perspectives that have materialised over generations be pushed to a full stop?

Recent reports have aggressively claimed that having more number of women in paid work will make our economies grow faster. This statement will be found to be borrowed if you put it in the plagiarism-checker but to look at the impact of this statement—if you are lucky, you’d read a few examples being implemented at the ground level. No; my way with words does not conform to a limited perception of a woman earning a daily wage. Let me focus on the statement again— more number of women in paid work will make our economies grow faster. True to its meaning, the word ‘constraints’ rings out loud from all the angles— the culture, the biology, the employers, and ironically even from the valued set of opportunities.

Norms are dynamic; they readily change forms—if only, we let them.

Until now, it stayed stationary, but has now been bubbling vigorously to respond to the broad socioeconomic changes and evolving dynamics of gender relations. The medicine named ‘affirmative action’ has finally managed to spur a chain of reactions, enhancing women’s agency in decision making, both economically and socially.

As we dwell deeper into the various constituents of ‘Feminist Economics’, it would be revealed that women are not ‘invisible’, and that economics even after having a ‘founding father’ does not belong to the ‘male gender’ per se.

The habit of ignoring ‘women’ in the explanations as well as during proposal of definitions carries a mind-set with a strong affinity towards the male counterparts.

The social norms have not only been blind but have been numb towards the ‘economics of inequalities’, consuming the society and robbing off of the accuracy and objectivity that forms an essential part of data collection and research studies.

Feminist Economics

Can women ever be considered as an economic asset? Feminist economics says yes. | Photo Courtesy: www.visualhunt.com

Marx and Engels viewed women’s entry into the paid labour force as the first step toward liberating women from their over-dependence on men but the division of labour in the micro-unit called ‘household’, not only robbed them off of the few resources at their disposal, but also burdened them with the primary responsibility of taking care of children as well as the aged.

Paul Samuelson, a noted economist, has humorously pointed out the truth when he said, “A country’s GDP falls, when a man marries his maid. Err….Oh sorry, his wife!”

Our very own GDP acknowledges household activity when it’s paid but the indicator turns blank when the same amount of work (in fact more than that, at varied levels) is done by the woman of the house, free of charge. This ‘free-of-charge mechanism’, has led to constant strangulations of her free choices, making her position disadvantageous in the ever-changing market dynamics.

Isn’t the economics of house important, or is it the case of behavioural economics lacking merit because of its deep connection with one’s womb?

To stimulate the prevalence of ‘Feminist Economics’ in the broader structure of the economics game, we need to embed it right into our mind-set, in our social institutions and most importantly, in our education system. This ‘social re-engineering’ should encompass the five pillars, strictly—

  • Job creation along with the extension of social protection measures irrespective of gender.
  • Public investments in infrastructure and social services coupled with effective regulation and channelling of financial resources to support the unpaid care economy and make it more stable and equitable.
  • Instituting progressive tax reforms to negate the burden of heavy taxation on women working in the informal sector.
  • Ensuring financial inclusion (In terms of availability and access to credit)
  • Deconstructing the barriers of thoughts and opportunities—paving way for increased participation and decision making (free from the shackles of society’s expectations)

The present holds the key to future—no surprises there. But if we ignore the basic tenants of ‘Feminist Economics’, our present will be constituted with pure ‘Bad Economics’.

Can we afford that—No!

Let us not bracket economics in a gender-specific discipline; let it stay ‘humane’!

Shreya Kumar is an independent researcher. You can reach out to her at kshreya1164@gmail.com.

Featured Image Source: Visualhunt.

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