New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 181

new internationalist
issue 181 - March 1988

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Overworked, undervalued
Paid work done by both men and women outside the home
in West Germany totals 55,000 million hours a year - and earns
them a total of $335 billion
1,2. Housework done by women inside the home
totals 53,000 million hours a year
3- and earns them no money at all.

DOING TIME

[image, unknown] In the poor world

  • Women in Pakistan spend an average of 63 hours a week on domestic work4.
  • Carrying water in Tanzania takes 4 hours of a woman's time and consumes between 12% and 27% of her day's calories5.
  • Grinding grain, by hand, for a family in Mexico takes between 4 and 6 hours a day5.
  • In India grinding grain takes 1.3 hours a day even when a mill is available5.
  • In Indonesia women spend over 3 hours a day just preparing food5.

In the rich world

  • Housewives in Australia do between 50 and 80 hours of housework a week6.
  • One survey in the US put the figure even higher, at 99.6 hours a week7.
  • Women with small children in the UK devote 50 hours a week to child-care alone8.
  • Women in Canada did an average of 50 hours housework a week in 19789.
  • A survey of 650 UK housewives found that they vacuumed the living room carpet an average of 215 times a year and cleaned the bath 182 times10.

In a Rwanda village women work three times as much as the men. This is because women do virtually all of the domestic work three quarters of work in the fields and half of work with the animals. Meanwhile the men tend the banana trees and do most of the paid work outside the home4.


COUNTING THE COST

The value of housework can be calculated by costing the various component tasks at market rates paid to cleaners, cooks, laundry workers etc. UK-based insurers, Legal and General, calculated the cost of replacing a housewife's services in the event of her death or disability in 1987 and came up with the following figures12:

Time

Job

Hourly rate of pay

0700

Childminder
Cook/waiter/dishwasher

$ 6.30
$ 10.71

0800

Driver

$ 6.48

0900

Shopper

$ 4.32

1000

Cleaner

$ 5.40

1100

Laundry worker

$ 4.32

1200

Laundry worker

$ 4.32

1300

Cost clerk

$ 6.30

1400

Cleaner

$ 5.40

1500

Driver

$ 6.48

1600

Childminder

$ 6.30

1700

Childminder

$ 6.30

1800

Cook/waiter/dishwasher
Childminder

$ 10.71
$ 6.30

1900

Childminder

$ 6.30

2000

Tailor

$ 6.30

2100

Tailor

$ 6.30

These figures underestimate the value of unpaid domestic work by at least 30%3 because of depressed market rates for the equivalent work (see Pink collar workers).

[image, unknown] The price of a wife
Other research has come up with the following values
for a woman's unpaid domestic work in the home:

  • US: $6,500 per year in 1977. That's 6 times the US military budget and half of total GNP7. If being on call' for child-care is counted, the cost rises to $700 per week (1979)7. A 1980 estimate put the annual value at $14,5004.
  • CANADA: $6,000 per year in 1978, which adds up to $26 billion or27% of GNP11. A survey in 1975 found that 49% of people thought women should be paid for housework9.
  • UK: $360 (200) per week for child-care alone, which would total $27 billion or 6% of GNP (1984)8.

MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE

A day in the life

Hours worked weekly
by MEN
by WOMEN
Philippines7
41
61
Uganda7
23
50
Indonesia5
61
78

How he helps

  • Men in the US do an average of 1.6 hours of housework a day, irrespective of whether their wives / partners have jobs outside the home13.
  • In the UK 93% of the cleaning and 90% of child-care is done by women10, who also prepare 77% of evening meals14.
  • One survey of UK men found that only 2l % had ever washed any clothes and only 19% had ever done any ironing15.

His 'n' Hers
Research into who uses which tools around the house reveals that men tend to use tools for one-off occasional jobs, whereas women use tools for regular frequent repetitive tasks13.

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Used by MEN: drill, saw workbench, electric sander, hammer, screwdriver.
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Used by WOMEN: stove, carpet sweeper, vacuum cleaner, pressure cooker, iron, electric mixer, washing-machine, sewing-machine, tumble dryer.

PINK COLLAR WORKERS

Woman's work
Outside the home women tend to be employed in occupations that mirror the kind of work they do inside the home.

  • In the UK over 90% of clerks, cashiers, maids, nurses, canteen workers and sewing machinists are women13.
  • In Latin America and the Caribbean women working in the service sector outnumber men by over four to one4.
  • In the USSR 82% of workers in the health service and 74% of teachers are women4.
  • Women in Australia, Norway and the US are five times as likely as men to be working as secretaries or clerks4.

Woman's worth
Because housework is considered menial and unskilled (partly because it is unpaid) the equivalent work in the market-place is also considered unskilled, and paid for at a correspondingly low rate.

  • In the US a secretary with 18 years' experience earns less than a parking lot attendant17.
  • Research in 24 industrialized countries in 1982 found that women in manufacturing earned an average of only 73 cents for every dollar earned by men doing equivalent work4.
  • A nurse in the UK earns $14,000, that is $6,000 less than a fireman (sic)18.

Bosses and secretaries
'Today's secretary also acts as wife, mother, mistress and maid. Office work is the business equivalent of housekeeping - concerned with tidying up, putting away, and restoring order. Filing is like washing the dishes. Typing a perfect letter is as transient an achievement as cooking an egg.'16

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see below for clear graph...

BOSSES

SECRETARIES

Women

Men

Women

Men

GERMANY (Fed.Rep.)

1.3

4.2

34.0

9.6

HUNGARY

0.1

0.2

16.4

3.5

UNITED STATES

3.8

10.4

27.9

5.5

JAPAN

0.4

6.4

18.2

9.4

EGYPT

0.8

0.9

25.0

6.5

SINGAPORE

1.2

8.2

14.9

5.7

VENEZUELA

1.6

9.2

16.7

7.6

% of male and female labour force in administrative and managerial (bosses) and clerical (secretarial) jobs.

Source ILO.

 

CAREER CHAOS

Career structures and working hours in most countries assume the worker has no domestic responsibilities. This is why women, though half of the world's adult population, are only a third of the official cash-earning labour force4.

Part-timers
Housework, especially that concerned with child-care, prevents many women working full-time.

  • In the UK 41% of employed women and 2% of men are working part-time4.
  • One in 25 woman teachers in the UK and one in 12 woman nurses has had to abandon her career and now works part-time in a cleaning or catering job13.
  • Women's responsibility for housework prevented them earning $27 billion in overtime payments in the UK in 198719.

Love or money
Housework prevents many women putting in the number of hours necessary for promotion in their careers. Women with careers often have to sacrifice their private lives.

  • Women professionals in the UK are over three times as likely as men to be unmarried20.
  • 50% of top women managers in the US are childless17.
  • Women in the US are three times as likely as men to interrupt their careers in order to take care of children, typically dropping out for 9 years. A 2-to-4-year break depresses earnings by 13%; a 5 year break by 19%17.
  • In 1985 bringing up two children was estimated to cost the average UK woman $88,200 in lost earnings22.

1 World Bank, World Development Report 1987.
2 International Labour Office, World Labour Report, Vol.3. 1987.
3 L Goldschmidt-Clermont, Unpaid Work in the Household, International Labour Office, Geneva, 1982.
4 D Taylor (Ed.), Women: A World Report, New lnternationalist/Mettruen, 1985.
5 B Rogers, The Domestication of Women. Tavistock, 1983.
6 B Cass (Ed). Women, Social Welfare and the State, Allen and Unwin. Australia.
7 L Leghorn and K Parker, Women's Worth, Routledge ann Kegan Paul, 1981.
8 D Piachaud, Around About 50 Hours a Week, Child Poverty Action Group, UK. 1987.
9 Reported in the Toronto Star, 31 May 1975.
10 The 1,001 Dirt Report survey of 650 housewives.
11 Reported in the Toronto Star, 20 June 1978.
12 How the Insurers put a Price on a Wife, in The Times, London, 28 March 1987.
13 W Faulkner and E Arnold, Smothered by Invention. Pluto, 1985.
14 HMSO, Social Trends, UK, 1987.
15 Association of Market Survey Organizations, Men and Domestic Work, UK.
16 M K Benet, Secretary: An Enquiry into the Female Ghetto. Sidgwick and Jackson, London, 1972.
17 S A Hewlett A Lesser Life. The Myth of Women's Liberation, Michael Joseph, London, 1987.
18 Reported in The Observer. 10 January 1987.
19 Research by the General, Municipal and Boilermakers' Union, reported in The Guardian, London, 19 January 1985.
20 A Oakley, Housewife, Penguin, 1976.
21 Survey reported in Woman Own, UK, 20 March 1876.
22 Research by the Centre for Economic Policy Research reported in The Guardian, London. 19 January 1988.

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