Blog :

Women and Unpaid Labour

Mar 10, 2023
Women and Unpaid Labour

"Women spend a disproportionate amount of their time carrying out three-quarters of the world’s unpaid work: 11 billion hours a day. Globally women undertake three times more care and domestic work than men, with women in low and middle-income countries devoting more time to unpaid work than women in high-income countries, although income-related differences within countries also exist."

This statement is shocking, but it isn’t surprising. 

So, why is there such a big issue surrounding women and unpaid labour? 

Unpaid labour doesn’t just refer to work carried out inside of the four walls of a business, instead, it references the amount of work that women do when it comes to childcare, parental care, housework, and general “life administration” that is put onto women. This is an issue that stems from gender roles predominantly, but also from the clear gender pay gap that is desperately trying to be closed. 

A third factor that can also be considered is the cost of living crisis that we are experiencing globally - which forces working mothers to put their careers “on hold” and instead focus on creating a childcare model within the home that is affordable whilst still being able to bring in enough money to run the home. 

This, coupled with the gender pay gap, means that we fall into old stereotypes of the man going out to work and the woman staying at home to look after the children. 

Why is this not a shared responsibility?

Women carry out an overall average of 60% more unpaid work than men, ONS analysis has shown.

ONS analysis1 of time use data shows that women put in more than double the proportion of unpaid work2 when it comes to cooking, childcare and housework.

On average, men do 16 hours a week of such unpaid work, which includes adult care and child care, laundry and cleaning, to the 26 hours of unpaid work done by women a week.

The only area where men put in more unpaid work hours than women is in the provision of transport – this includes driving themselves and others around, as well as commuting to work.” - ONS

The statistics show that there is hope that one-day unpaid labour will be a shared responsibility - but we believe that the main contributor is that there is still such a stark difference between the amount that men and women get paid, as well as the rate at which men and women can progress in the workplace.

You only have to google “number of female CEOs” or “average salary for a woman in X industry” to see the results. This can feel disheartening for a lot of women - and it’s completely valid to feel this way. However, the reason why it’s not a shared responsibility can also be put down to the type of organisation you’re in, the country you live in as well as the social norms of that location. Currently, there are only 6 countries in the world that give men and women equal legal working rights: Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden. So, we have a long way to go. 

What can organisations do to support women and unpaid labour? 

Ultimately, as an employer, you can’t control what goes on inside of the home - but you can control how you are remunerating and looking after women within your organisation. Look at your promotional criteria - is there a gender bias? 

Are you creating paths for women returning to work and are you creating paths for part-time employees (male or female)? 

The whole point of creating equality isn’t to put women on a higher pedestal than men (which is unfortunately a common misconception, particularly with how the notions of feminism are viewed) but instead to create a level playing field, so both genders can feel supported. It puts less of the onus on men to be the “breadwinner” and for women to have fruitful careers, create a balanced (or more balanced) household and ensure that both parties can thrive. 

Additionally, you must look at your pay structures for men and women in your organisation. Although in some organisations it can be difficult to be rigid, you need to ensure that you’re paying competitively and fairly - regardless of gender.

Finally, let’s ignite some conversation, please. Don’t shy away from asking women in your organisation what they need from you as an employer and how you can best support them. As we’ve already said - you can’t control what goes on inside the home and what the dynamics are, but you can provide a space for women in your organisation to feel supported, build incredible careers and be paid well along the way.

The solution is going to take time, but a solution is there!

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