Women do four years more work than men in lifetime, report shows

Report by ActionAid ahead of UN general assembly reveals burden of unpaid care work on women around the world

Women carrying heavy jugs filled with water.
Women are more likely to have a greater burden of unpaid work in some developing countries. Photograph: Lynn Johnson/Getty Images/National Geographic

A young woman entering the job market today can expect to do an average of four years more work than her male peers over her working lifetime, according to a report.

Time spent by women around the world on paid and unpaid labour amounts to an extra month for every year of work.

The charity ActionAid will present the report, Not Ready, Still Waiting, at theUnited Nations general assembly on Thursday.

Highlighting the global burden of unpaid care work on women, the report finds that a woman living in the UK can expect to do two and a half years more labour than her male peers over her working life.

The report warns that the burden of unpaid care work limits women’s opportunities to pursue income-generating options, to have their voices heard in decision-making and political activities, and for rest and leisure.

To redress the balance, ActionAid is calling for governments – especially in developing countries where women are more likely to be affected – to deliver quality public care services, pass equal pay and family-friendly workplace legislation and agree minimum living wages, among other solutions.

“We do not mean to suggest that all unpaid work, including unpaid care work, should be remunerated, or to ascribe a monetary value to unpaid care, which includes what we believe to be intrinsically invaluable activities, such as loving and nurturing children and family,” said Girish Menon, chief executive of ActionAid UK.

“Rather, ActionAid believes women’s unpaid work should be recognised, reduced and redistributed – between women and men, and between the household and the state.

“Women’s labour – in and outside the home – is vital to sustainable development and for the wellbeing of society. Without the subsidy it provides, the world economy would not function. Yet it is undervalued and for the most part invisible.”

Launched to coincide with a meeting of the UN high-level panel for women’s economic empowerment at the general assembly, the report highlights that not enough progress has been made on launching policies to tackle inequality since the UN sustainable development goals were agreed one year ago.

Unpaid care work includes all activities involved in maintaining a household and caring for others in the home and community – for example, cooking, cleaning, collecting water and firewood in rural areas, taking care of the ill and elderly, participating in community work, working in family enterprises and volunteering.

The report argues that women will continue to experience inequality unless their “vastly disproportionate levels of unpaid care work are recognised, reduced and redistributed”.

Using analysis of 217 developed and developing countries, ActionAid analysed women’s total unpaid hours of work compared with men’s. It found that, worldwide, women’s average additional hours of unpaid work over the global life expectancy for women (69 years) came to an estimated 23 working years.

The estimate does not reflect the fact that in many developing countries, life expectancies, and thus working lives, are often much shorter for people living in poverty, particularly women.https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/sep/22/women-do-four-years-more-work-than-men-in-lifetime-report-shows