Women’s un­paid work is the back­bone of the Amer­i­can econ­omy

Tehran Times - - WOMEN -

On Equal Pay Day, it’s also im­por­tant to rec­og­nize the un­paid work women do.

Women in coun­tries that are mem­bers of the in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal eco­nomic group, Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment, spend about 271 min­utes or about 4.5 hours per day on av­er­age do­ing un­paid work, ac­cord­ing to the OECD. That’s com­pared with 137 min­utes, or slightly more than two hours, for men. In the U.S., that divi­sion of la­bor is just slightly more equitable, with women do­ing an av­er­age of 242 min­utes of un­paid work com­pared with 148 min­utes for men, the OECD found.

If women’s paid par­tic­i­pa­tion in the for­mal econ­omy was equiv­a­lent to that of men, it would add $28 tril­lion or 26% to global GDP, ac­cord­ing to McKin­sey.

That bal­ance has got­ten more equal over time, said Kim Parker, the di­rec­tor of so­cial trends re­search at the Pew Re­search Cen­ter. In 1965, when the gov­ern­ment be­gan keep­ing track of how Amer­i­cans spend their time, women de­voted the bulk of their wak­ing hours to un­paid work and men barely did any of it. That’s changed. But, even as women are in­creas­ingly tak­ing on a larger role in the paid work­force, they’re still ex­pected to take on the bulk of chores, like laun­dry, cook­ing, clean­ing and child care that al­low house­holds to func­tion.

“It’s be­come much more equal, but with women still do­ing more un­paid work,” Parker said. The re­sult: Whether by choice or not, men still end up do­ing more paid work. “Women, even full-time work­ing women, spend fewer hours on av­er­age do­ing paid work than their hus­bands or part­ners do. That may be due in part to the fact that there’s this ex­pec­ta­tion or de­fault ar­range­ment where they are do­ing more of the child care or house­work.”

That dy­namic is cost­ing the econ­omy, as phi­lan­thropist Melinda Gates noted in her an­nual let­ter ear­lier last year. If women’s paid par­tic­i­pa­tion in the for­mal econ­omy be­came iden­ti­cal to men’s, we’d add $28 tril­lion or 26% to global gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, ac­cord­ing to a Septem­ber 2015 re­port from McKin­sey, a con­sult­ing firm. But the time women spend on un­paid work is af­fect­ing their in­di­vid­ual careers and fam­i­lies as well.

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