Today, 1st May is celebrated internationally as Labour Day. It is an annual holiday in many countries to celebrate the achievements of workers.
Labour Day has its origins in the labour union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.
But today let us also take a moment to reflect on the role of women’s labour –both for production and reproduction.
Women have always contributed to the reproduction role in our civilization through the contribution of their bodies being used (and taken over really) for the purpose of growing and nurturing the pregnancy and then after delivery for breast feeding as well as child care and rearing.
So what is different from other animals you may ask ?
Well nothing really, except that humans are clearly higher on the evolutionary scale and we like to believe that we are different/ superior/ more intelligent/ civilized and so on.
So then why are women still saddled with an unequal burden of child rearing while men have the option of exploring different frontiers and can also continue to have a family and children ‘on the side’ so to speak, without any interference with the trajectory of their careers and lives ?
Half the pregnancies worldwide continue to be unplanned and half of these are also unwanted. Women die both times—to continue the pregnancy to term or to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
Women also contribute to labour and always have done so.
During the two World Wars, it was women workers who kept the factories running, cities functioning, secret codes unravelling.
Across Asia, women farmers make up half the agricultural workforce.
The mega cities in our part of the world are being built by women manual labourers working on building sites.
Women make up more than half the migrant labour workforce, sending precious foreign exchange back to the home countries.
White collar workers, doctors, firefighters, office workers, teachers, everywhere.
For this contribution to labour what do they get ?
They get paid less
and also have to bear the added burden of managing home and children.
Women have been increasingly sharing the burden of labour outside the home for decades now.
It is time for men to move in and start sharing in the domestic unpaid and thankless labour also !