Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Caring for our people: not counted, not rewarded II/IV

Across countries, and regardless of income, women are excessively responsible for unpaid care work, while men are primarily engaged in market-based activities. 

Care work includes cooking, cleaning, collecting firewood, taking care of children, the ill and the elderly. It is absolutely central to the proper functioning and wellbeing of societies, as well as to the reproduction of the workforce. It is nonetheless completely invisible in national accounts and statistics. It is taken for granted as a subsidy provided by ‘women’s work’, but it is not really regarded as ‘work’, thus enjoying little recognition or reward.

The 2012 World Development Report found that per day women devote one to three hours more than men to housework; two to 10 times the amount of time to children, elderly, and the sick; and one to four hours less to market activities.In India, for example, national time-use data estimates that on average, women spend 10 times as much time on unpaid care work than men, while the latest population census showed that as many as 45% of women of working age in India (28 times more women than men) are confined solely to domestic duties.

 Another study in Latin America and the Caribbean showed that in over half of cases where women aged 20 to 24 do not seek work outside the home, the main factor was their unpaid care burden.

While women all over the world spend time on unpaid caring, the burden in terms of poverty and opportunity cost is much greater for poor women in developing countries. For example, it is estimated that globally women provide between 70% and 90% of care to people living with HIV/AIDS. The task of collecting water in Sub-Saharan Africa also falls disproportionately on women and girls, who spend 40 billion hours a year doing just this. This pressure becomes all the more intense at times of economic shock or other crises, when governments tend to fall back heavily on women’s unpaid care work to pick up the slack as public services are cut back.

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