Change and stability at home: Professional women negotiating care work during the COVID-19 pandemic in India

Ieva Zumbyte, Brown University

In India professional women with young children balance work and family demands largely by relying on extensive domestic support from other women – maids, nannies and grandparents. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted these arrangements by withdrawing the gendered and classed support systems, and forced mothers and fathers to perform the increased care work alone. In this paper I investigate whether and how professional women who shift to working from home manage, negotiate and share increased caregiving tasks with their partners. Drawing on data from 51 in-depth interviews with telecommuting upper-class mothers and fathers in urban India during the pandemic I explore whether women shoulder the increased labor alone or whether and how they manage to attain more gender egalitarian sharing arrangements. The pandemic provides an opportunity to advance our knowledge on how the withdrawal of household support and a shift to working from home shapes professional women’s strategies to negotiate and share care work with their partners, possibly challenging the established gender order at home.

Keywords: COVID-19, Family demography, Inequality, Qualitative data/methods/approaches

See extended abstract.

  Presented in Session 105. Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Relations