21 February 2010

India, Modernity, Washing Machines and Women

The NCAER's study on the Indian middle class has some interesting data on the ownership of consumer durables in India:

Consumer DurableOwnership
Colour TV14.6%
Washing machine7.2%

Now colour TVs, refrigerators and washing machines cost about the same. But the ownership of washing machines is about half that of colour TVs and refrigerators. It is comparable to the ownership of scooters and motorcycles, which cost about 5 times as much.

So the 'deficit' in the ownership of washing machines (compared to colour TVs and refrigerators) is about 7% of the population. This translates to about 1.5 crore families. That is, 15 million families can afford a washing machine, but haven't bought one.

What does this mean? It means 15 million Indian women wash clothes by hand – even though they don't have to. It means 15 million Indian women spend half their day washing clothes, from morning to afternoon, everyday – even though they don't have to.

What does this say about modernity in India?


kaddi said...

The observation may be right but the relationship may not be. Out of the 15 million Indian women, half of them may be employing 2 million other Indian women as 'bai's who come in and wash clothes on a daily basis. That meaninigfully occupies so many more women and pushes GDP up a little bit. :)

CodeNameV said...

My father once told me when I talked to about Washing Machines and how all houses must be equipped with washing machines, he said (like kiddi said in the other comment)

"use of technology may not always do good in a country like India. Today, we pay our house maid 1500 rupees and she takes care of her kids' education with that money! Imagine if we dont give her that job and use a washing machine! Imagin if no one gives her that job and everyone uses washing machine!"

It may not be that middle class i.e., us, think so much about others, but it is just that a house maid does a lot of other things one of them being washing clothes and in a typical middle class house, house maid becomes a nice company for the house wife to talk about neighborhood happenings and also last nights saas-bahu serial!

riyaz said...

agree with kaddi - it only says that a good part of the 15 million india women can afford domestic help!

Indian said...

I have seen many homes with TV, fridge and two-wheeler, but no washing machine – and no "bai" either. The housewife washes the family's clothes herself.

I have written this post based on my personal experience, not just the NCAER data. The data merely corroborates what I have seen with my eyes.

Anonymous said...

I have just come across this blog entry and I couldn't resist to comment.
The assumption that not buying a washing machine gives lot of other women a chance to earn a living is totally mistaken.
Those who can afford a afford a washing machine could still employ a "bai" and let her use the machine to wash clothes apart from other household chores.
Washing is an effort and thousand's of hours of washing will definitely take toll on the health of any woman. Unless you strongly feel a washing machine cannot better hand wash it's preposterous to think you are doing good to your society by employing a bai for washing your clothes.
watch this TED talk by Hans Rosling, he has a different perspective on Washing Machines...