Tag Archives: Housework

Balancing paid work, unpaid work and leisure (OECD Countries)

07/03/2014 –

Greater gender equality in working hours is not just about more women in full-time employment. It is also about more men reducing their long hours in paid work. Although detailed information is available for a limited number of OECD countries, data on the usual hours worked per week illustrate how the prevalence of long and short working hours differs across countries and the sexes.

Among the sample of countries, the United Kingdom has the longest working hours culture: more than 20% of employed men usually work 40 to 50 hours per week and another 20% working more than 50 hours per week. In the Czech Republic, France and Poland, 20% of employed men also usually work for more than 50 hours per week, considerably more than in the other countries, including Germany, Hungary, Scandinavian countries and the Slovak Republic.

France and the United Kingdom are also the countries where most women usually work more than 40 hours per week (over 15%). At the same time, many British women work part-time (hyperlink to the indicator), while the prevailing “35 hours working week” contributes to most women working less than 40 hours per week in France.

The forty hour working week is the overriding working hours’ pattern for both men and women in the Czech and Slovak Republics, Poland and Hungary. In Finland, Norway and Sweden collective and/or sectoral agreements often lead to usual weekly working hours of around 37.5 hours per week. Indeed, the long working hours’ culture is not pervasive in Scandinavian countries, which contributes to the general perception in these countries that pursuing both active work- and family lives are compatible aspirations for both fathers and mothers.

 The Distribution of usual hours worked among men and women in employment

Source: OECD Employment database  

 Over the last 50 years, women decreased their hours of unpaid work as they increased the hours of paid work. Men have been doing more housework and child care, but they didn’t take up the slack so gender inequalities in the use of time are still large in all countries. Turkish women spend the most time doing unpaid work, such as housework or shopping, at 377 minutes a day, followed by Mexican women at 373. This compares to their menfolk: Mexican men who spend an average of 113 minutes on unpaid work and Korean men who spend only 45 minutes, the least of all. If we look at the sum of paid and unpaid work, women work more than men (2.6 hours more per week on average across the OECD).

When it comes to time spent on personal care, including eating and sleeping, the gap between the sexes is much smaller. French women spend the most time in personal care, at 755, just ahead of Italian women at 697. Their men spend almost as much time (738) –  just ahead of Italian males at 697.

In virtually every country, men are able to fit in valuable extra minutes of leisure each day while women spend more time doing unpaid housework.

Time spent in unpaid work and leisure

Minutes per day

infographic on time use

Source: OECD based on data from National Time Use Surveys.

From: http://www.oecd.org/gender/data/balancingpaidworkunpaidworkandleisure.htm

Unpaid care: the missing women’s rights issue

Kate Donald 20 January 2014

Unsupported and unshared care work perpetuates women’s poverty, political marginalization and social subordination. The distribution of care is not natural or inevitable, but rather socially constructed and in our power to change, says Kate Donald

“Women’s rights are human rights”, declared Hillary Clinton in Beijing nearly 20 years ago. This simple yet revolutionary statement has evolved into a mantra of the international human rights movement. However, one of the major obstacles to women enjoying their rights equally with men has been rarely recognised or even spoken of by human rights advocates. Something that happens every day, in every household, village and city around the world: the cooking, cleaning, and caring that families, communities and societies depend upon and simultaneously take for granted.

All of us receive care at some point in our lives. Almost all of us will also give care, to children, to elderly parents, to partners. To speak of ‘care’ as a human rights issue risks dissonance. Isn’t care a good thing? Don’t we need more of it, not less? Indeed: it is not unpaid care per se that threatens human rights  – being a foundational, unavoidable and very human activity that underpins all societies and cultures– but rather, the way it is distributed, and the lack of recognition and support it receives.

Of course, from The Feminine Mystique to the Wages for Housework Campaign to The Second Shift, feminists have pilloried the discriminatory distribution of unpaid care. In general however, human rights and women’s rights advocates have been slow to adopt it as a cause. Granted, in a field like women’s rights there are a myriad of heart-rending issues fighting for attention; but surely something that so fundamentally shapes women’s time, lives and opportunities should by all reasonable measures be a rallying point?

One obstacle is that care has unfairly been perceived as an elite concern. Many of the public debates around care focus on the struggles of privileged professional women – the Sheryl Sandbergs of this world – to juggle motherhood and work. Poor women supposedly have more serious, life-or-death concerns. On the contrary: unpaid care work is intimately bound up with survival, with eking out an existence on subsistence crops and little income. It is the work of putting food on the table, insisting your children attend school so the next generation can have hopes of life away from the breadline, keeping everyone in the household clean and healthy so wages are not lost and unaffordable health costs are not incurred.

In all countries, women provide the vast majority of unpaid care – and when unpaid care is taken into account, women work longer hours overall than men. It is also absolutely clear that the struggle is intensified for women living in poverty, because they can’t afford to pay for outside help or time-saving technologies (be it a washing machine or grain-grinder), and because they are more likely to live in areas where public services are inadequate or absent. Rural women in many developing countries have the added burden of collecting water and fuel for domestic use – often walking hours each day to do so. In sub-Saharan Africa women and girls spend 40 billion hours each year collecting water – equivalent to a year’s labour by the entire French workforce.

The amount of time women spend on unpaid care is fundamental to defining their time, energy, finances and social and political capital. It is also definitively a human rights issue. Under international human rights law, including the International Covenants and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, if women are unable to enjoy a right to the same extent as men, this is automatically a human rights violation that requires remedy. States are explicitly required to take concrete measures to ensure that women are able to enjoy their rights equally, and to tackle any obstacles to them doing so. The gendered distribution of unpaid care work is unquestionably a major obstacle in this regard, preventing the equal enjoyment by women of a whole range of human rights.

Most obviously, their rights to work and to equal rights at work are threatened. Even privileged women have to contend with the gender pay gap, lack of family leave rights, and maternity discrimination. For many poorer women with intensive care responsibilities, although they would dearly love the income, paid work is an impossibility. Others are forced to accept whatever badly paid flexible work they can find – often without labour rights or social security – and still perform the same ‘second shift’ when they get home, sacrificing their health and leisure.

Girls’ right to education is also put in jeopardy, whether they are withdrawn from school entirely or simply have less time and energy to devote to schoolwork or extra-curricular activities than boys due to their domestic duties. This has devastating knock-on consequences for their future opportunities and income. Compounding this, later in life women have less time for training or adult education opportunities because of their heavy domestic workload.

Women are also less able to participate actively in politics and public life – another fundamental right – because of their unfair share of unpaid care. Practical considerations such as time and lack of childcare provision prevent many women from participating in public forums ranging from national parliaments to community groups. Hence, many decisions crucial to their lives and livelihoods are taken without them in the room.

Undoubtedly, moving towards a fairer distribution of unpaid care will require profound socio-cultural change. However, governments have a crucial role to play in moving towards the more equal sharing of care, for example through education and awareness-raising campaigns, but also in a more immediate sense by more effectively supporting and providing care. Ensuring quality, accessible public services and care services, especially in poorer areas, can help to liberate women from unsustainably large burdens of care provision, as can improving infrastructure (piped water, decent roads) and subsidizing affordable time-saving technology such as fuel-efficient stoves.

Unfortunately, there are striking examples of governments around the world doing exactly the opposite. As Fawcett Society and the Women’s Budget Group have shown, austerity measures in the UK are having a disproportionate impact on women; but the vandalism of austerity is not confined to Britain or even Europe. Recent research has shown that developing countries (many of them barely recovered from the similarly destructive effects of structural adjustment) are slashing public budgets with as much – or more – alacrity as their European counterparts. It goes without saying that their populations can even less afford to lose the services and benefits being cut.

Wherever public services are cut, legislators and policy-makers are acting on the implicit assumption that women will take up the slack. In countries afflicted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, ‘home-based care’ for people suffering from AIDS has been celebrated as a policy innovation. Really, it represents only an intensive scaling up of the norm – handing the burden back to poor women, away from overwhelmed and under-resourced health services. Women and girls provide 70-90% of HIV/AIDS care, while the virus also affects women in greater numbers than men.  The finances, equipment, drugs and training that these caregivers need to perform their work without jeopardizing their own health and livelihoods remain largely unrealized. 80 per cent of family caregivers in South Africa have reported reduced income levels.

The evidence is clear that countries with greater gender equality in employment and education report higher rates of human development and economic growth. Thus, for reasons from principled to pragmatic, we should be devoting every possible effort to correcting the obscenely skewed distribution of unpaid care. Currently, ‘women’s empowerment’ is one of the most oft-cited priorities in the halls of the UN and development agencies.  However, without a real recognition of unpaid care as a fundamental factor limiting women’s rights and life chances, empowerment is a mirage: akin to promising to end violence against women while ignoring domestic violence. Is a women empowered if she takes a low-paid job in a garment factory with no social security, only to start her second shift of domestic ‘duties’ as soon as she gets home, pausing only for a few hours’ sleep? To truly empower woman would mean respecting care work as valuable and productive, giving it status, encouraging men to do it, and supporting it with resources and services. It would mean freeing women’s time and potential, enabling them and supporting them to go out to work if they are able, ensuring they are given ample opportunity for training and advancement, and access to childcare.

Hopefully, 2014 will be the year when unpaid care work is recognised as a core women’s rights issue. There will be ample opportunities to make the connection between care, poverty, gender inequality and denial of women’s rights – for example at the Commission on the Status of Women and in discussions around the global development agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. Some organizations that work on poverty and development – most notably ActionAid, Oxfam, and the Institute for Development Studies – which is using animation as part of this work –  are now taking this issue seriously. Hopefully human rights organizations will follow suit, including unpaid care work in their women’s rights analyses and priorities, alongside issues such as violence against women, reproductive rights and employment. Hopefully, we will also start to see human rights jurisprudence further recognising the impacts of inadequate State support for unpaid care, and making recommendations for its redistribution.

Care is non-negotiable and fundamental. It has to be done. It can be a huge source of fulfillment and joy; but we also have to acknowledge that it can also entail heavy costs, especially for women living in poverty. The way it is currently distributed between women and men is unjust and unsustainable. In all countries, unsupported and unshared care work perpetuates women’s poverty, political marginalization and social subordination. We cannot hope to achieve gender equality without fully facing up to this injustice. The distribution of care is not natural or inevitable, but rather socially constructed and in our power to change.

From: http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kate-donald/unpaid-care-missing-women%E2%80%99s-rights-issue?utm_source=50.50+list&utm_campaign=509bb37639-RSS_5050_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_89d6c8b9eb-509bb37639-407822177

The pride of working women – Algeria

A new ILO study examines the constraints on working women in Algeria and the opportunities available to them.

ALGIERS (ILO News) – “I am proud of my work, but the men say that we have taken their jobs. Our society is unyielding.”This statement by a 42 year old Algerian woman from Tissemsilt shows that the employment of women is still a matter for debate in Algeria – as in numerous other countries.

Despite the considerable advances seen in the Algerian political sphere, where women constitute over 31 per cent of the deputies to the National Assembly (*), their economic participation remains very low.

In 2011, with a proportion of 17.7 per cent of women in the workforce, Algeria – alongside Iraq and Syria – was among the countries with the lowest level of female economic participation in the world – according to an ILO study pending publication (**). Women are, nevertheless, gradually beginning to enter the workforce. According to the National Statistical Office of Algeria, by 2013 the female labour force participation rate had risen to 19 per cent.

“Invisible” home-based activities

According to the ILO study, the female labour force participation rate is held back by a multitude of complex, notably sociocultural, factors.

Parts of the population do not consider that women who perform unpaid home-based activities in such areas as the agricultural, livestock, textile and clothing sectors are really part of the labour force.

The weight of tradition or certain family constraints restrict women’s work and travel opportunities.

Young women often have little contact with the world outside their family circle and are also less well informed and less prepared for entrepreneurial life. Families are often more inclined to provide moral and financial support to boys for enterprise-creation projects.

The lady from Tissemsilt herself told the ILO investigators: “I would like my daughter to go to university, but I do not want her to work. I would like her to study, to become cultured and to achieve all she can at university, that would be a good thing, but I would prefer her not to work as she will never be respected at work. The men have no respect for young women.”

This statement by a wife and mother of five children, which appears in the ILO study, speaks volumes about cultural obstacles to the participation of women in working life.

Hearing what women have to say

In addition to conducting a detailed analysis of labour market statistics for women between 2001 and 2011, the study’s authors – Jacques Charmes and Malika Remaoun – also spoke to women directly in order to compare the statistical data collected with the daily reality experienced by Algerian women.

The women described their lives and ambitions and reflected on their own family, educational and occupational experiences. The study presents a number of positive developments seen in women’s employment, which are the result of various mechanisms put in place for them by the authorities.

The report stresses, however, that women hold their destiny in their own hands and future progress will depend on their determination to push back the boundaries and overcome obstacles.

Concluding the debate more eloquently than any statistic, one woman entrepreneur from Tiaret notes:

“It is also a question of not wanting to be dependent on men, of having a career, of demonstrating one’s true abilities. And I think that women are more determined, they have more to offer.”

* In accordance with a law passed in November 2011, which imposes a female quota of 20–50 per cent of the seats on their list.
** Les contraintes et opportunités pour l’emploi des femmes en Algérie, ILO, Algiers, 2014 (pending publication).

Quel salaire pour les mères au foyer ? How Much is Your Mom Worth?

Quel salaire pour les mères au foyer ?

ELLE.frELLE.fr – 

Si mère au foyer était une qualification reconnue, les Américaines gagneraient très bien leur vie. Le site américain ” Salary ” a estimé, après avoir effectué un sondage auprès de 6 000 mères en 2013, que les tàches qu’elles accomplissent devraient leur rapporter 6 917 euros par mois. Soit un salaire non négligeable de 83 006 E par an. Selon ” Salary “, une mère au foyer américaine travaille en effet environ 94 heures chaque semaine et fait appel à une multitude de compétences : taxi, femme de ménage, psychologue, cuisinière, ou encore professeure. Plus généralement, le site permet à chaque femme de calculer son salaire virtuel, en indiquant combien d’enfants elle a, si elle a un travail, où elle vit, et combien de temps elle consacre à chaque tàche.Les femmes seraient mieux payées que les hommesSi le travail domestique était reconnu, les hommes auraient pour la première fois un salaire inférieur à celui des femmes. Les pères ne passent en effet que 55,7 heures par semaine à s’occuper des tàches ménagères, selon ” Salary “. ” Cette étude est faite simplement pour s’amuser et n’est en aucun cas purement scientifique “, a toutefois précisé le site dans son article. Il n’empêche : une fois de plus, les inégalités femmes/hommes restent frappantes.

From: http://fr.pourelles.yahoo.com/salaire-m%C3%A8res-au-foyer-144257731.html

Salary.com’s 13th Annual Mom Salary Survey

How Much is Your Mom Worth?

Moms. We love them and for good reason. After all, they brought us into the world, raised us, taught us right from wrong and supported us in just about everything we’ve ever done. Biological? Adopted? It doesn’t matter. We owe our mothers everything. And even though they’re too selfless to collect, Salary.com is giving you the chance to hand your mom a check on Mother’s Day by going to our Mom Salary Wizard and finding out what your mom would be paid if moms were – you know – actually compensated.

So that’s why, for the 13th consecutive year, Salary.com surveyed more than 6,000 moms to find out what their top 10 most time-consuming jobs are and how much time per week they spend on each. Then we applied our extensive salary data to each job, factored in the number of hours worked including overtime, crunched all the numbers and POOF – we get an estimate of what mothers would make if they were paid an annual salary.


For more details go to:


Women and men in family farming – recognizing their contributions and challenges

©FAO/Antonello Proto / FAO

Family farming and smallholder farming are an important basis for sustainable food production throughout the world. While family farms tend to be highly efficient in terms of agricultural productivity per unit of land, those that produce on a small or medium scale have limited bargaining power and capacity to defend their interests in food markets.

Beyond an agricultural model, family farming is a way of life, where both men and women have different roles and responsibilities. As elsewhere, what men and women do and are responsible for is largely determined by what is socially considered acceptable. In many cultures, men serve more often as managers – making decisions about what crops to plant, how much land to use, whether to make by-products and where to sell the food. Their tasks on the family farm can also include preparing the soil for planting and harvesting, while women usually do the planting, weeding and post-harvest processing. It is the combination of men’s and women’s efforts that make family farming work.

The challenges family farmers, especially women, face also include the lack of a clear line to divide family life and work. National data from a number of countries show that most unpaid family farmers are women, who also work longer hours than men when both agricultural work and household chores are counted.

Family farmers, who tend to be unsalaried workers, miss out on benefits, such as retirement, maternity leave and child care. And here women face greater disadvantages. Female managers of family farms tend to own less land and livestock than their male counterparts, and have less access to financial credit and services, markets to sell their products and time-saving technology. Climate change, food price volatility and economic globalization also create difficulties for family farms.

To highlight the important contribution that family farming and smallholder farming can make to food security and poverty eradication, the year 2014 was named the International Year of Family Farming by the UN. “FAO and partners will hold consultations, encouraging countries to adoption policies that support family farmers with social protection programmes and rural services, including medical care and agricultural extension and training,” says Ana Paula Dela O Campos, FAO Gender Policy Officer. “If agricultural policies are designed to respond to both women’s and men’s needs and consider their roles in family agriculture,” she explains, “they will be in a stronger position to increase agricultural production and reduce rural poverty.”

What is family farming? Family farming, or family agriculture, is a means of organizing agricultural, forestry, fisheries, pastoral and aquaculture production, which is managed and operated by a family and predominantly  reliant on family labour, that of both women and men. The family and the farm are linked, co-evolve and combine economic, environmental, reproductive, social and cultural functions.

From: http://www.fao.org/gender/gender-home/gender-insight/gender-insightdet/en/c/195767/


Les femmes repoussées au foyer après la fin d’un CDD

Publié le 30-08-2013

En 1991, 59% des femmes avançaient des “raisons personnelles” pour rester au foyer. La raison majoritaire est devenue la fin d’un CDD.


Une femme coupe des tomates chez elle - illustration (SUPERSTOCK/SIPA).

Une femme coupe des tomates chez elle – illustration (SUPERSTOCK/SIPA).

Le premier motif invoqué par les femmes ayant cessé de travailler pour rester à la maison est la fin d’un contrat précaire alors qu’il y a 20 ans les raisons personnelles primaient, selon une étude de l’Insee publiée vendredi 30 août.

L’Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques estime à 2,1 millions le nombre de femmes au foyer en 2011, contre 3,5 millions en 1991. Soit une femme en couple sur cinq au lieu d’une sur trois vingt ans plus tôt.

Une femme au foyer est, selon la définition de l’Insee, une femme de 20 à 59 ans, non étudiante, vivant en couple et inactive. Les femmes vivant seules sont exclues du champ.

En 2011, les femmes au foyer sont plus diplômées qu’il y a vingt ans mais toujours moins que les mères en activité, constate l’étude, qui exploite les enquêtes Emploi menées chaque trimestre auprès d’un échantillon de 100.000 personnes.

En cause, la fin d’un CDD

Elles ont huit fois sur dix (79%) déjà travaillé dans le passé, une proportion proche de celle de 1991 (76%). En revanche, “Les motifs de cessation d’activité ont sensiblement évolué”, souligne l’Institut.

En 1991, 59% des femmes avançaient des “raisons personnelles”. Elles ne sont plus que 21% en 2011 et “la raison majoritaire est devenue la fin d’un CDD”.

Ce motif de fin de contrat à durée déterminée est invoqué par 35% des femmes, contre 10% en 1991. 11% des femmes expliquent aussi leur retrait de la vie active par un licenciement économique (contre 4% en 1991).

Le passage par le chômage, la conjoncture économique “moins favorable” fait que “certaines femmes peuvent se décourager: ne recherchant plus véritablement d’emploi, elles deviennent alors inactives”, souligne l’Insee.

Mais c’est un “ressenti” et “il est parfois difficile de démêler l’effet de la situation sur le marché du travail des choix personnels”, explique une enquêtrice à l’AFP.

Les interruptions vont “souvent” de pair avec l’arrivée d’un enfant mais 43% des femmes au foyer en 2011 n’avaient pas (ou plus) d’enfants mineurs encore à la maison, relève encore l’Insee.

30% des femmes à temps partiel

Une deuxième étude publiée vendredi par l’Insee compare les taux d’emploi des hommes et des femmes.

Entre 2003 et 2011, cet écart se resserre mais il reste important. Ainsi, en 2011, 67% des femmes étaient en emploi contre 76% des hommes. La proportion de femmes augmente d’un point sur la période tandis que celle des hommes diminue de 3.

L’écart grimpe de 9 à 15 points si l’on tient compte du temps travaillé. Recalculé en équivalent temps plein, le taux d’emploi était alors en 2011 de 59% pour les femmes contre 74% pour les hommes.

Ce taux, explique l’Insee, donne une vision plus complète de la situation du marché du travail où 30% des femmes sont à temps partiel, contre 6% des hommes seulement.

En équivalent temps plein, le taux d’emploi des femmes au foyer de moins de 30 ans et sans diplôme tombe à 29%.

From: http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/societe/20130830.OBS4958/les-femmes-repoussees-au-foyer-apres-la-fin-d-un-cdd-selon-une-etude.html#xtor=EPR-1-%5BActu8h%5D-20130830


Women’s invisible work: Public strategies that are explicitly oriented towards reducing and redistributing unpaid work will do more than just help the women in the economy.

Invisible work


Public strategies that are explicitly oriented towards reducing and redistributing unpaid work will do more than just help the women in the economy.


A woman and her daughters collecting firewood on the outskirts of Berhampur in Orissa. Subsistence work done by women is not counted as an economic activity.  

WORK defines the conditions of human existence in many ways. This may be even more relevant for women than for men because the responsibility for social reproduction – which largely devolves upon women in most societies – ensures that the vast majority of women are inevitably involved in some kind of productive and/or reproductive activity.

Despite this, in mainstream discussion, the importance of women’s work generally receives marginal treatment simply because so much of the work they regularly perform is “invisible” in terms of market criteria or even in terms of socially dominant perceptions of what constitutes “work”. This leads to the social underestimation of women’s productive contribution and also means that inadequate attention is typically devoted to the conditions of women’s work and their implications for the general material conditions and well-being of women.

This is particularly true in developing countries, where patterns of market integration and the relatively high proportion of goods and services that are not marketed have implied that women’s contributions to productive activity extend well beyond those that are socially recognised and that the conditions under which many of these contributions are made entail significant pressure on women in a variety of ways.

In almost all societies, and particularly in developing countries, there remain essential but usually unpaid activities (such as housework and child care and community-based activities) that are seen as the responsibility of the women of the household. This social allocation tends to operate regardless of other work that women may perform.

For working women in lower-income groups, it is particularly difficult to find outside labour to substitute for household-based tasks, which therefore tend to devolve upon the young girls and aged women within the household or to put further pressure on the workload of the women workers themselves. In fact, it is wrong to assume that unpaid tasks by women would continue regardless of the way resources and incomes are allocated. “Gender neutral” economic policies may thus result in possible breaking points within the household or the collapse of women’s capacity.

Social provision for at least a significant part of such services and tasks or changes in the gender-wise division of labour with respect to household tasks, therefore, become important considerations when women are otherwise employed.

The relative invisibility of much of women’s work is now more widely recognised. Since many of the activities associated with household maintenance, provisioning and reproduction are not subject to explicit market relations, there is an inherent tendency to ignore the actual productive contribution of these activities. Similarly, social norms, values and perceptions also operate to render most household-based activity “invisible”. This invisibility gets directly transferred to data inadequacies, making officially generated data in most countries (and particularly in developing countries) very rough and imprecise indicators of the actual productive contribution of women.

Inaccurate data


CHILDREN IN A Khasi village in Meghalaya helping to grind paddy. The Khasis are matriarchal, and apart from other outside work, all the household work is done by women.  

This means that the data on the participation of women in the labour force are notoriously inaccurate. Not only are the problems of undercounting and invisibility rife, but there are often substantial variations in data across countries, which may not reflect actual differences but may simply be a result of distinct methods of estimation. Further, even statistics over time for the same country may alter dramatically as a result of changed definitions of what constitutes “economically active” or because of more probing questions put to women or simply because of greater sensitivity on the part of the investigators.

The impact of social structures is reflected not merely in the data but in the actual determination of explicit labour market participation by women. Thus, in certain regions of India, social norms determine the choice between participation in production and involvement in reproduction and consequently inhibit the freedom of women to participate in the job market or engage in other forms of overt self-employment. The limitations on such freedom can take many forms. While the explicit social rules of some societies limit women’s access to many areas of public life, the implicit pressures in other supposedly more emancipated societies may operate no less forcefully to direct women into certain prescribed occupational channels.

All this is why the new book on unpaid work, Unpaid Work and the Economy: Gender, Time-use and Poverty in Developing Countries (edited by Rania Antonopoulos and Indira Hirway; Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), is so important.

The book combines methodological, theoretical, technical, empirical and policy-oriented discussion on this issue, which has been so understudied by economists and other social scientists. It raises two critical sets of questions: How does unpaid work affect the outcomes of the economy, and how does the paid economy impact the unpaid economy? How can the recognition of unpaid work be used to integrate it with development strategy? The first chapter, by the editors, provides an excellent introduction to the conceptual and empirical issues involved and shows the link to macroeconomic processes. Unpaid work can be seen as a subsidy to state provisioning or to private agents operating in markets, and either of these “externalities” are actually manifestations of a structural system that uses gender constructions to be exploitative and generate significant inequalities in time-use.

Vicious circle

Several other chapters in the book provide evidence based on time-use studies in various countries, ranging from Bolivia and South Africa to India and the Philippines. The evidence provided suggests clearly that most unpaid work is performed by women who are trapped in a vicious circle of drudgery and poverty and is driven not only by economic circumstances but by the availability of physical and social infrastructure. This underscores the importance of providing quality public services (especially in health, sanitation, child care, and so on) and infrastructure, of technological advances in typically unpaid activities that are time consuming and demanding, and of greater attention to the management and regeneration of natural resources.

This book makes the important point that while better statistics and data collection methods are essential they are not enough, and the recognition of unpaid work should not remain confined to giving it greater visibility by “counting” it. Rather, the point is, through knowing and interpreting the reality, one has to change it. So first of all, one must recognise the various categories of unpaid work in relation to production processes and daily fulfilment of basic needs. Four categories are defined in the book: unpaid work of family workers in family enterprises; subsistence work (such as collection of fuelwood and water for the household); unpaid household work such as cleaning and washing; and care of the other members of the household, including children, the old and the sick.

This then allows for a better understanding of how the conditions under which this work is performed hinders the integration of people’s labouring capabilities with desired development strategies. It is obvious that unpaid work requires both reduction overall (through more and better public provision, better infrastructure and technological changes) and redistribution to ensure more equitable burden, especially across gender. But the different categories of unpaid work may need to be addressed differently in terms of required policy responses. Thus, some forms of subsistence unpaid work would definitely be reduced through more and better public provision, especially of basic utilities and services. But reductions in unpaid care activities require a more careful and sensitive approach, such that public provision is made with sufficient resources and in a way that does not impede early childhood development or the adequate care of the aged and the sick.

The issue of unpaid work is often seen as a “gender” issue, and indeed, because of the way that it is distributed in most societies, it is certainly so. But the contribution of this book is to show that it is much more than that and is actually fundamentally a development issue. Public strategies that are explicitly oriented towards reducing and redistributing unpaid work will do more than help the women in the economy; they will make economic processes overall more stable, sustainable and productive.

From: http://www.frontline.in/navigation/?type=static&page=flonnet&rdurl=fl2703/stories/20100212270308100.htm

Volume 27 – Issue 03 :: Jan. 30-Feb. 12, 2010

Of Housework And Husbands… Women still do nearly twice the amount of housework as men.

Of Housework And Husbands

by Lisa Wade, PhD, Jul 11, 2009, at 11:20 am

Married women in the U.S. do about 70 to 80 percent of the housework. When women marry, the number of hours they spend on housework increases; for men, it stays the same. When couples have children, her housework increases three times as much as his. Feminist women do less housework than non-feminist women; men married to feminist women do the same amount of housework as men married to non-feminist women.

All this and more, including some data on Portugal, China, Russia, South Africa, Italy, Britain, and the Netherlands, can be found at this fact sheet at the blog Social Studies.

The discrepancy between the number of hours wives and husbands contribute to housework decreased between 1965 and 1995:


According to the fact sheet:

…in the 1990s, U.S. women spent about half the time on housework as they had 30 years earlier (17.5 hours down from 30 each week), while men, on the other hand, were spending just over twice the time they had spent (10 hours up from 4.9).

Women, however, still do nearly twice the amount of housework as men.

You may notice that the increase in hours that husbands now spend on housework does not match the decrease in hours that wives now spend on housework.  This means that we have dirtier houses (no, really, we do).  We also now hire housecleaners, and that makes up some of the difference.  It may also be true that our gadgets (e.g., washers and dryers) save us time.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College.

From: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2009/07/11/of-housework-and-husbands/