Class and Social Reproduction: Interrogating Time Use Data for Clues

The literature on agrarian change in India has largely employed class categories based upon data on land, assets and occupational status. Land and asset data tend to exist at the level of households. Indicators of occupation have neither fully counted unpaid reproductive labor nor accounted for diversified livelihood strategies. As a result, categorizations of class in the literature on agrarian change tend to collapse women’s class relations into those of male household heads. The recent completion of India’s first ever national time use survey in 2019 provides an opportunity to address these longstanding gaps. Does time use data lends itself to an understanding of class relations?In what ways does it (i) offer an expanded conception of work as including reproductive labor, (ii) better accommodate the highly diversified livelihoods of rural Indians, and (iii) better grasp the co-constitution of caste, gender and class? Drawing from the rich literature on social reproduction, I compare the class relational mapping obtained from time-use data with other class-related measures. I examine the possibilities and limits of employing time use data to deepen feminist political economy analyses of agrarian change.

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