The Hidden Cost of Women’s Unpaid Work

May 17, 20192:05 pm
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United Nation on gender equality mentioned that the world is working towards gender equality and women’s empowerment under the Millennium Development Goals that aims to end discrimination and violence towards women. According to the UN, women and girls around the world should have equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making. Thus, this progress will fuel sustainability in economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.

However, there is something missing from the UN survey. It is the underappreciated, undervalued, and unpaid work that women do all day. What is it? It is the job of caring for children, washing dishes, cook, weeping floor, and any other household or undervalued chores such as collecting wood or gardening. You might say that these chores are simply “women’s duties” that it might be too much to mention it as unpaid or unvalued work. The truth is, you would be surprised to see the hidden cost of these jobs. The valuable price these jobs can do to our gross domestic product (GPD).

See also: Women Equality: 6 Countries Giving Women Equal Right as Men

Let’s do a simple calculation. This is a simple but eye-opening trick of calculation proposed by Annalisa Merelli & Youyou Zhou. For anyone who wants to know just how much invisible work women do, here is the example:

Women spend 2.24 hours a day doing housework in a typical married household. Men, on the other hand, only spends approximately 1.38 hours. If you multiple this hours with hourly rates for typical household payment service, it translates to income about $20 per day, or $7,300 a year.

It is not much but it does impress GDP overall.

Another study by Cassandra Scott showed that women conduct higher time in childcare, domestic work, care of adults, and volunteering. These jobs might sound very micro but they are frighteningly macro. When you put unpaid work in context, the annual value of unpaid childcare alone is estimated to be $409 billion which is equivalent to 25 percent of Australia’s GDP. Meanwhile, other unpaid work such as household job and domestic labour can contribute $132 billion. Thus, you can say that women’s unpaid work worth $152 – $425 per week.

Furthermore, a survey from Luke Messac, MD, PhD. revealed that it is true that from history, these jobs are excluded because they were commonly viewed as women’s job. However, Phyllis Deane  as in Messac survey said that if governments want to have better income and ensure equitable distribution, contributions – even small contribution including rural jobs – had to be counted. Nowadays, small and unseen jobs are matter most for economy. Scott also cited that if you add an extra 6 percent of women in workforce, you can add up to $25 billion to GDP. The more women – or at least equivalent to men – in the workforce, the more GDP can a country make.

So, how can we do better regarding this?

By changing and/or formulate new policy regarding this matter. For example, Scott suggested, government should start by:

  • re-establishing women’s bureau,
  • reviewing start and end time of school or work hours to better commute logistics,
  • mirroring intergenerational report,
  • reviewing family benefits and the penalty/incentive for returning to paid work,
  • investigating a top-up payment at retirement age,
  • establish a task list of unpaid work in an average household, and
  • introducing anew part of a curriculum for early childhood to teach children what’s involved in household and remove gender bias towards unpaid work.

And individual can start with a small move such as respecting each other’s hard work or educating children for how a household should be done and how a mother and a father should work together towards a better life. Only then, we can bring women out of the shadows and stereotypical gender roles. Thus, gender equality and a better life can be achieved.

Read also: 3 Ways Women Can Shine in Workplace