Study: Millions of women in unpaid work exposes gender inequality

International Women's Day falls every year on 8 March, with the date taking on a different focus depending in what part of the world it is being celebrated. [Bryan Ledgard/Flickr]

As International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world today (8 March), a new study by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) has shown that women spend more time in unpaid work than men, particularly when it comes to childcare. EURACTIV’s partner El País – Planeta Futuro reports.

The report, entitled Women’s work: Mothers, children and the global childcare crisis, finds that mothers who have to work a formal job in addition to looking after children often see their quality of life and well-being, as well as their children’s, affected.  According to the study, at least 35.5 million minors under the age of five spend at least an hour a day alone or under the supervision of another child aged under ten. The authors emphasised that this state of affairs is “no reflection of the love of their parents”.

“Across 66 countries representing two-thirds of the world’s population, women spent 3.3 times as much time as men on unpaid care,” said the report, compiled by Emma Samman, Elizabeth Presler-Marshall and Nicola Jones. In Iraq, women give up 10.5 weeks more than men per year in unpaid and unrecognised work. In Sweden, which proved to be the most egalitarian of all the countries surveyed, the difference was still 1.7 weeks.

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The fact that women spend more time than men carrying out household chores and unpaid care sometimes means they work less in recognised employment, contributing to social inequality. “But, when we combine paid and unpaid responsibilities, it is an indisputable fact that women work, on average, more than five weeks more than men,” added the ODI, which cross-referenced its findings with data taken from the United Nations.

“Policies are failing these women and girls. Often, it is assumed that time is only a problem for women that are in formal employment. Decision-makers often forget that the vast majority of women in developing countries work informally (129 million worldwide) and care for their children,” wrote the authors of the report. “We hope that policy-makers will now focus on women and their children and take steps to provide better protection,” Samman added.

EU seen as dragging its feet on gender equality

SPECIAL REPORT / On the eve of International Women’s Day on Sunday (8 March), the EU is seen as dragging its feet on fulfilling its promise on gender equality.

Some countries are already succeeding in this regard. The report cited Vietnam as an example of a middle-income country that has approved a number of policies that have had a positive impact, for example, a minimum six month period of maternity leave with full pay, paid paternity leave and the requirement that employers allow their staff to attend maternity and antenatal classes. South Africa was also praised by the study for its ratification of the International Convention on Domestic Workers, which entered into force in September 2013.

The Sustainable Development Agenda, adopted by the UN last year, lists gender equality and empowerment of women and girls as one of its 17 goals. The fifth SDG calls for unpaid care and domestic work to be better recognised and for more responsibility to be shared within households.

El País - Planeta Futuro

El País - Planeta Futuro

Gender equality in employment was included in the Treaty of Rome signed in 1957. The first piece of secondary EU legislation in the field was the Equal Pay Directive of 1975, which prohibited discrimination on grounds of gender to all aspects of remuneration.

Currently, gender equality legislation is a newer version of the Gender Directive of 2006 and the 2004 Directive implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access of goods and services.

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