A new report from the United Nations found that women do an estimated 2.6 times the amount of unpaid work that men do — what equates to “emotional labor.”
This work that disproportionately falls to women includes vital jobs like taking care of the children and the myriad tasks that come with them, like picking them up from school, caring for elderly parents, managing household expenses and completing chores like cleaning and cooking.
This unpaid physical and emotional labor, the UN noted, doesn’t factor into a country’s gross domestic product. And that is because societies across the world still don’t see “women’s work” as valuable, UN Women chief of research and data Shahra Razavi told CNN Money, even though these roles are essential to everyone’s well-being.
“If women stopped doing a lot of the work they do unpaid, then the whole economy would collapse,” Razavi said.
In underdeveloped countries, this “women’s work” equates to finding sources of fuel and collecting water. In more developed nations, the report notes, modern technologies created to assist women domestically — like dishwashers and washing machines — are still out of reach for those under the poverty line.
Taking this burden off of men frees them up to spend more time exercising, playing games and indulging in other leisurely activities, the U.S. Department of Labor acknowledged. Because women are saddled with these extra items on their daily checklists, they not only have less time to relax but less energy and time to devote to growing their careers, leaving them behind the pack when the chance for a promotion arises.
“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,” Better Life Lab at New America director Brigid Schulte told CNN.
“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.”
Schulte offered two potential solutions to lighten women’s loads and spread the work more proportionately. She said that companies and countries can institute or improve upon their family leave policies that keep men in the office and women at home and that couples and families need to discuss how work is divided and come to reasonable agreements.
“Even in countries where the division is so stark,” Schulte said, “here could be discussions about how to make things fairer.”