In this study, I explore the inter-linkages and dynamics between paid and unpaid care work taking the example of Anganwadi Workers (AWWs) in Pune, India. I examine how AWWs exercise collective and individual agency. I critically assess the feminization of care work and the simultaneous use of voluntary labour of women in welfare programmes. The study is grounded in feminist epistemological standpoint theory. It adopts an intersectional lens to show that AWWs are not a homogenous group and their experiences are shaped by their class, age, marital status and living arrangements. It deploys the concept of care economy, decent work deficit and agency and relies on in-depth inter-views and participatory observation to uncover the performance of paid care work in the public sphere and unpaid care work in the household. Findings indicate that AWWs face a decent work deficit primarily due to their status of volunteers and state’s lack of investment in the infrastructure of their work environment. There is a gendered division of unpaid care work in the household as a result of which women incurred motherhood employment penalty and job quality penalty. A few of them also face time poverty. The study shows that AWWs are conscious of their marginalization as paid as well as unpaid carers. They have collectively challenged the lack of recognition of their paid work. Individually, they resort to various strategies to navigate through social norms around unpaid care work.

Anganwadi workers, decent work, precarious work, care work, motherhood employment penalty, time poverty, union, agency
Chhachhi, Amrita
Social Policy for Development (SPD)
International Institute of Social Studies

Nikam, Manasi. (2019, December 20). Sugar on the tongue and ice on the head: Anganwadi workers manage paid and unpaid care work. Social Policy for Development (SPD). Retrieved from