Women in wealthy countries around the world, including Canada, are spending substantially more time than men doing unpaid work — labour that is being massively undervalued by the countries benefiting from them, according to a new study.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has produced a paper contending that between one-third and one-half of the “valuable economic activity” in some of the world’s richest countries goes unrecognized.
The study is referring to unpaid work, including such household tasks as cleaning, cooking and caring for children or the elderly. It also includes volunteer work.
The study points out that this wage-free labour doesn’t factor into the most prominent economic measurements wealthy countries use, such as the gross domestic product.
“Household production constitutes an important aspect of economic activity, and ignoring it may lead to incorrect inferences about levels and changes in well-being,” the report says.
The research looked at 26 OECD-member countries which are among the richest nations in the world, such as Canada, the United States and much of Europe. China, India and South Africa — all non-OECD countries — were also included in the report.
It was found that the average time spent doing unpaid work is 3.4 hours a day for people in all countries, amounting to about 14 per cent of a person’s day. Canada was in line with the average on this measure.
It was found that women spent an average of 4.7 hours a day doing unpaid work, compared to about 2.2 hours for men. The gap was less pronounced in Canada, but still existed. It was found that Canadian women were doing about 4.2 hours a day of unpaid labour, compared to around 2.5 hours for men.
“There are many reasons why women do more unpaid work than men,” said Monica Boyd, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto. “It’s fundamentally built into the existing structure of gender relations in which there still is a valuation of the jobs that men do of being better, of being more worthy of higher pay, being more skilled.”
The organization found some notable differences in the amount of time men and women put into unpaid child care.
Mothers who were not working outside the home were found to care for their children an average of 2.4 hours a day in all countries assessed, or 1.2 hours if they did have outside jobs.
For fathers, even those not working spent less than an hour a day — 51 minutes — on caring for their children on average, and it was 40 minutes for those who were working.
In Canada, the survey found stay-at-home moms spent an average of 3.1 hours a day caring for children, while working moms spent a little more than 1.6 hours. Fathers put in slightly less than 1.6 hours a day of child care if they were not working, and just less than one hour daily if they were employed.
The OECD report found almost no differences in the amount of time men and women spent doing volunteer work.
These findings were released just ahead of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day on Tuesday.