Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Time Banking as a Crucial Tool to Empower Women


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Time Bank System

Mains level: Read the attached story

This newscard is an excerpt of an article originally published in the Down To Earth.

Defining Work

  • ‘Work’ was defined by Spanish economist Lourdes Beneria in 1999 as a paid economic activity linked to the market.
  • Both paid and unpaid work, however, are constituents of our economic life.
  • This leads to an ecosystem where unpaid and care work, performed for long hours, becomes invisible.

Narrative of Unpaid Work

  • Women perform 75 per cent of the world’s unpaid care work, and unfortunately it is not accounted for in a nation’s gross domestic product.
  • The largest source of women’s unpaid labour is domestic work.
  • These include household chores like grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning as well as caregiving to the children, elderly and infirm.
  • In the absence of this, survival is perceived as a challenge for both individuals and society as every economy is dependent on unpaid labour and care services.

Time Poverty and unpaid work

  • This share of labour has a cost not only in terms of the unrecognised monetary value but also time poverty.
  • Time poverty is defined as “not having enough time” to pursue interests beyond unpaid domestic / care work.
  • Time poverty has a direct bearing on the ability of women to contribute to or participate in the labour market and / or public or political life.
  • Time poverty is also responsible for insufficient political participation of women globally.

Issues with unpaid work

  • Unpaid labour is not considered ‘real work’ and is often devalued by the men and society, who directly benefit from it.
  • The situation leads to emotional strain and combined with the time poverty, the costs often outweigh the benefits.
  • Often, women do not find enough time or motivation to participate in activities outside the household.
  • Female labour force participation rate is on a declining trend in major economies.

The conception of Time Banking

  • Time banking comes forward as a social innovation for increased empowerment of women.
  • Traditionally, household chores are expected to be performed by women. Women in general are more time poor than men.
  • Empowerment of women is limited by time poverty. In this context the concept of time banking was introduced
  • Time banking can be viewed as an opportunity cost of an unpaid activity in terms of the time sacrificed.

How does time bank function?

  • In time banks, one hour equals one time credit, regardless of the service being performed or the level of each person’s skill or gender.
  • The time banks are time-sharing cooperative among women, with people helping each other meet their day-to-day needs and address challenges in their community.
  • For each hour of a service exchanged, the service provider receives one, time credit and the beneficiary pays one, time credit.
  • The time bank networks tap into unused resources of people in the community to fill unmet needs of each other.

Significance of time banking for women

  • Time-banking can benefit women, their families and their communities by alleviating time poverty through the system of exchange services through time credits.
  • The system has the potential to improve the livelihoods of women and their families, thereby increasing overall economic activities.
  • There were time banks operating in more than 30 countries in the Americas, Africa and Europe as well as in Russia and China.
  • Most case studies showed that time banks have functioned most as community-building tools, economic drivers or within elder care.
  • They can also be utilised to prioritise women’s political participation.
  • This has a direct impact on women empowerment and entails benefits to individual women, their families and communities.

Time bank networks can be utilised for increasing political participation of women in the following ways:

  1. Directly: Through utilisation of time credits for campaigning for office
  2. Indirectly: By educating themselves or others on local issues or understanding their rights, accessing government programs and mobilising others.

Way forward

  • Across the world, there are examples in our everyday life of intra- and inter-family examples of informal time-sharing.
  • However, for tangible results on a community or economy scale, the concept needs scaling up and formalisation.
  • Time banking, if made a formal arrangement, has the potential of community building, civic inclusiveness and increasing economic activity.
  • Above all, it has the potential to act as the catalyst to women empowerment by formally recognising the economic value of unpaid labour and tapping the same across communities.


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