In India, boys are better

November 22, 1991|By Jodi L. Jacobson

PREFERENCE for sons and the biased allocation of family resources is based on myths the Indian government has failed to combat. One is the notion -- not peculiar to India -- that females do not contribute to family income. Throughout the world,

women bear the "invisible" burdens of unpaid domestic work and childbearing, the economic value of which is rarely reflected by official statistics.

According to conventional measures based on wage labor, government data show that only 34 percent of Indian females are the labor force, as opposed to 63 percent of males. But a survey of work patterns by occupational categories including household production and domestic work reveals that 75 percent of females over age five are working, as opposed to 64 percent of males.

Young girls in India work longer hours than boys of the same age. By age 10, girls in low-income families are working eight or more hours a day assisting their mothers by tending siblings, collecting water and firewood, herding small animals, weeding fields or facing the daily grind of low-paid child labor in the marketplace. By age 15, an Indian girl works more than 10 hours a day. And adult women work 16 to 18 hours a day on average, as opposed to 10 to 12 for men.

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