Apr 26, 2023

Labour laws and family structure


A pic of my home and a glimpse of my childhood in the late 80s.

Mom would leave for work around 8:30 AM and return home by 5:30 PM. She was working as a teacher.

Dad would leave for work around 8:45 AM and return home by 9:30 PM. He was working in the private sector.

My paternal grandma took over the complete responsibility of the house - cooking, cleaning, taking care of us and disciplining us.

My maternal grandparents' house was next door and we would spend most of our time there. Grandpa would have a strict eye on us and catch us red-handed when we were up to some mischief.

My aunt (mom's sister) helped us with school homework.

My aunt and maternal grandma would take turns, plaiting my long hair in the morning rush hours before school.

All of them took turns in dropping and picking us up from school when we were very young.

My paternal grandma would make evening snacks for us when we return from school.

The old saying goes - It takes a village to raise a child.

Having grown up with extended family members, I have observed how everyone took charge of various responsibilities. Since the workload was shared, this gave my parents ample time, bandwidth and most importantly, mental space toward their work commitments.

Many of us born in the 70s/80s would have gone through a similar upbringing.

Fast forward, 40 years.......The village is no longer available, due to shifts in societal norms - moving to different cities/countries, nuclear families, health issues of extended family members and a general lack of willingness to participate in sharing the workload.

As a result, it is now completely up to the parents to manage ALL responsibilities at home between the two of them. Help can be sought externally, but is it possible to outsource the majority of responsibilities? Not practical. Not financially viable either.

There are still exceptions, but most people I talk to are in a similar situation.

The trigger for this post is the latest news regarding the 12-hour work shift that is being implemented in manufacturing units in TN and the comments/posts circulating on how this would impact the workers.

Irrespective of the nature of the job, work demands have gone up over the past couple of decades, speaking from my experience in the IT industry.

The changes in family structure and increased responsibilities play a major role in whether such high work demands can be met reasonably well (without disrupting our well-being and sanity). 

The needs of children keep evolving at every stage of their growth. They look up to their parents at all stages for their cognitive, social, mental, emotional and nutritional needs.

These factors need to be considered when reframing labor laws or defining corporate policies and employee benefits, irrespective of the industry.

A recent report indicates that Indian women are facing a higher burnout rate as compared to their global peers. In my opinion, the spouse sharing home responsibilities isn't sufficient enough to solve this issue.

It requires holistic evaluation of the challenges at multiple levels -

rethinking work demands and job design from the ground up,

measuring work outcomes instead of work hours clocked in the office,

extending maternity benefits beyond 6 months through flexibility, remote work, hybrid work, and project-based outcomes.

The pandemic forced organizations to rethink the working models, but it now seems that prioritizing "what is easy" over "what is right" has taken precedence yet again.

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