Traditional gender imbalances in unpaid work remain in most countries and on average, women do more than two more hours of unpaid work per day than men, the IMF said on Tuesday.
In a paper, released ahead of the annual meeting of the IMF and the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund said that while men have increased their time spent on unpaid work, women still spend from 20 to 1,000 per cent more time than men around the world.
Women in Hong Kong spend 2.6 hours a day on unpaid work, and in Mexico 7.1 hours. Gender imbalances in the distribution of unpaid work varies significantly across countries, the paper said. In Norway, one of the most egalitarian countries in the world, women do 20 per cent more unpaid work than men.
The corresponding number is 60 per cent in the US. In Japan, women do four times as much unpaid work as men. In Pakistan, women do 1000 times more unpaid work than men, it added. Uneven distribution of unpaid work can be explained partly by persistent gender wage gaps and gender-based comparative advantages in unpaid work but also by barriers and constraints imposed by culture, regulations, and lack of family-friendly policies, the IMF said.
Noting that unpaid work is a substantial part of economic activity that goes unmeasured and is shouldered disproportionally by women, the report said while gender imbalances in unpaid work have declined in recent decades, they remain significant. Even in the most egalitarian countries in the world, women do at least 20 per cent more unpaid work than men, with the vast majority of unpaid work comprised of domestic chores rather than care work.
The burden of female unpaid work declines as countries develop with engines of liberation and marketisation of the economy reducing the amount of unpaid work and allowing female labour force participation to rise. Social institutions and values also matter for reducing and redistributing unpaid work, it said.
Observing that there are large gains to be reaped from reducing and redistributing unpaid work, it said the governments can help by investing in infrastructure and public services such as water, electricity, and security in developing countries and digital connectivity everywhere can help reduce unpaid work. Fostering the provision of childcare and elderly care can replace unpaid work with paid work.
Redistribution of unpaid work also requires investing in women's human capital through education and health care, enshrining women's rights in the law, implementing family-friendly policies such as parental leave and taxation of secondary earners, enhancing the efficiency of labour markets, and promoting flexible work arrangements, it said.