Women: Walking and Waiting for Water The Time Value of Public Water Supply
Public funding of water supply infrastructure in developing countries is often justified by the expectation that the time spent on water collection significantly decreases, leading to increased labor force participation of women. In this study we empirically test this hypothesis by applying a difference-in-difference analysis to a sample of 2000 households in rural Benin where improved water supply was phased in over time. Time savings per day are rather modest at 35 minutes: even though walking distances are considerably reduced, women still spend a lot of time waiting at the water source. Moreover, a reduction in time to collect one water container induces women to collect a higher number of containers per day. Our results indicate that time savings are rarely followed by increased labor supply of women: men are the first to be freed from water fetching activities.
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