Accepted paper:

Time and inequality in access to basic services


Lucy Dubochet (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Paper short abstract:

How do resource poor men and women respond to being made to wait and rush when they access basic services? What do these temporal behaviours reveal about inequalities of power in the delivery chain for basic services? This paper reports from two lower class neighbourhoods in Delhi, India.

Paper long abstract:

How do temporal behaviours reflect attitudes towards inequalities of resources and power? This paper draws on research in two lower class neighbourhoods of Delhi to examine the role of time allocations in access to basic services. It describes how being made to wait or rush structures everyday interactions with service providers, and how residents respond to such cycles of waiting and rushing. By contrasting survey findings and ethnographic enquiries, it shows that wastages of time linked to inequalities are widely under-reported, not just by providers making others wait, but also by residents who are made to wait. It argues that this under-reporting of time is rooted in the same relations of power that keep residents waiting for unpredictable services. Because irregular supplies prevent them from making any alternative plans around the moment of delivery, that time has limited value in their own eyes. This, in turn, results in their under-reporting it. The finding, the paper concludes, has implications for researchers concerned with understanding temporal choices, and for development practitioners concerned with delivering services to the poor.

panel E01
Everyday practices of inequality (Paper)