Women Still Do More Than Twice as Much Unpaid Labor

According to a new report from the United Nations, women do 2.6 times as much unpaid labor as men, including cooking, housework, and caring for children or elderly parents. This probably does not come as a surprise to women.

This kind of work, while undervalued and underappreciated, is critical.

“If women stopped doing a lot of the work they do unpaid, then the whole economy would collapse,” Shahra Razavi, the chief of the research and data section at UN Women, told CNN.

And yet, because this type of work is considered feminine and thus less important, most countries don’t even factor it into their GDP. Work that keeps the world economy running is not used to measure the success of a country’s economy.

This kind of undervaluing of work isn’t just annoying or inconvenient, it has real consequences for women’s health and success, not to mention their quality of life.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, men spend more time than women exercising and enjoying leisure activities, presumably because they’re spending considerably less time folding laundry or picking kids up from school.

Not only does this take away from women’s free time to enjoy sports or hobbies or just relax, it takes away from their career potential too.

“When you expect women to do all that unpaid work, they don’t have the energy or the bandwidth to do that deep, concentrated work in the way that men do,” says Brigid Schulte, director of the Better Life Lab at New America. “So that’s robbing women of the ability to be innovators, for economics and companies and societies to take full advantage of women’s talents.”

Relying on women to take care of domestic work means we’re losing out on the potential of whatever else they could be doing with that time and energy. We’re missing out on the art, the science, the solutions and simply the joy women could be creating if they weren’t doing more than their fair share of unpaid labor.

In the U.S. alone, women spend four hours every day doing unpaid labor, which adds up to four more years than men.

The added burden of this extra work on top of paid work means women’s mental and physical health starts to suffer, which in turn can have consequences for their work. Researchers have found a “tipping point” of 39 hours of work per week, after which women see an increased risk of mental health problems. When you add the unpaid work that women do, many women are going to blow right past this tipping point.

While the lives of women today should be enough to warrant a change, the amount of housework men and women do has an effect on the next generation too. Girls whose fathers do more housework tend to have higher career ambitions. So heterosexual men who do little housework aren’t just taking time and energy away from their wives, they are affecting their daughters’ potential as well.

The changes necessary to get women on an equal playing field have to take place both in our culture and in our homes. Men need to step up. Women’s time is just as valuable, and women deserve just as much time to pursue their dreams, relax, exercise, meet with friends, or literally whatever else they want to do.

As a culture, we need to pursue laws that make it easier for men and women to balance work and home life and challenge the cultural norms that place these heavier burdens on women.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock.

86 comments

Elizabeth M
Past Member 1 months ago

Thanks.

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Jan S
Jan S2 months ago

thank you

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Lesa D
Lesa D2 months ago

thank you Lauren...

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John W
John W2 months ago

Because they choose to. Men still do 50% more overtime. Identitarian!

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Mark Spiegel
Mark Spiegel2 months ago

Forgot to add this to my post:

Alexandria Starks:

I thought your comments to me required a response.
Let me know if you are interested in having a conversation.

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Mark Spiegel
Mark Spiegel2 months ago

1)
I thought your comments to me required a response.

“Never assume because when you assume you make an ass out of u and me.” ~ Benny Hill

Or as they would say in a courtroom, “You assume facts not in evidence.”

You assume you know me. You do not.

You assume my post was made to mock women and their issues. My post was in support of women’s issues. What you call mockery was my poor attempt to lighten a serious and sometimes grim subject with a little humor.

You accuse me of sexist language. Please point out the sexist language. I would be interested in knowing what your criteria are.

You called my advice “half-assed”. This advice is based not just on the twenty years lived with my parents and the experience I had with a few co-workers but on seventy years of life. My basic point was that people need to stand up for themselves and stop accepting behavior they find oppressive. Obviously this is not meant for someone who might be in an abusive relationship. But for the average woman who works outside the home and is tired of doing all the work at home it works quite well. It worked brilliantly for Julie. And it has worked for others.

If my post had been written by a woman I am certain your reaction would have been different.

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Mark Spiegel
Mark Spiegel2 months ago

2)
You assume that I have led a life of privilege. You would be wrong.

While I don’t know what it is like to grow up in the inner city or as a female I came from a poor family. I received no special treatment from anyone. I had to work for everything I got. The only royalty in my family was the princess phone my sister had.

You challenge me to “do something” instead of post remarks on Care2. Once again you assume I’ve never done anything for anyone.

I started “doing something” probably before you were born. Perhaps you might find my early membership in NOW acceptable. I have participated in numerous empowerment workshops over the years. Then there is my participation in marches for civil rights. I used to have hearing in both ears but lost it in my right ear curtesy of an Alabama state trooper’s billy club. I’ve worked to elect progressives, including women, for the last fifty years. When I was a supervisor I ran a gender neutral shop. My actions were based on my father’s belief that if you wanted the job and you could do the job then you should get the job. Gender and sexual preference has no place in your decision.

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Mark Spiegel
Mark Spiegel2 months ago

3)
So why would I, a privileged white male, do all these things? Because as one who was mercilessly persecuted as a child by white males I hate bullies.

There is more but it’s getting late and I need my beauty sleep.

And that brings me to my final point(s).

You started out your response with an attack and an insult. You proceeded to dismiss my advice. You never asked one question, only statements and accusations. You provide a list of reasons why women can’t achieve and then you imply that men should change to help women.

Men will not save you, Alexandria. We can help but you will have to liberate yourself by stepping up and taking your power. The #MeToo movement is a perfect example of what I am talking about. Women were abused and overlooked for decades until one brave woman, Rose McGowan, stood up and shouted Enough!

And then the dam broke.

Your passion is admirable but when you make assumptions instead of asking questions it can detract from your arguments.

I’ll leave you with this.

It is important to know who your enemies are.

It is more important to know who your allies are.

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Leanne K
Leanne K2 months ago

Trolls here too. But of course

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Leanne K
Leanne K2 months ago

In my house, its my job to take out the garbage. Do you know why? Because I was stupid enough to do it that first time... spoken by a well known aussie comedienne, Fiona O'Loughlin

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