“Unless things change, girls today will spend hundreds of thousands more hours than boys doing unpaid work simply because society assumes it’s their responsibility.”
–Melinda Gates, 2016
Edit: I decided to expand this post a little more to convey my point.
Have you ever thought about unpaid work?
I am not talking( or writing) about internships, I specifically mean domestic work in households; cleaning, cooking, washing, shopping, etc.
I know we are not living in the 50s anymore, and in developed countries, the gap between paid and unpaid work is quite small. But if a group of people lives together, the burden of household maintenance mostly falls on one individual; be it the mothers, dads, or one of your housemates.
In movies and TV shows, we observe a sarcastic portrayal of a seemingly needy person asking their partner, “You don’t think taking care of our children and home isn’t work?”. We give a big laugh and move on. But is it really work? Yes, absolutely.
Some might say it’s that person’s choice, or that they love doing it and don’t mind sacrificing for their family. I agree with all that, and not trying to say everyone should rebel and let each individual fend for themselves. In fact, in my domestic environment, that person is me, and I could never give up that control.
However, there is no denying these hours come out of an individual’s lifetime, time that could be spent on self-development. So regardless of who is doing the unpaid work, sacrifices are being made.
So what is to be done?
First: We need to acknowledge that unpaid work is actual labour.
Second: We should think of ways and means to make this work easier and less time-consuming, whether for ourselves or others.
Third: We should strive to divide the work fairly between individuals.
So what am I saying?
That big changes start with us and in small ratios.
If you have a person in your house that does the entire work, why not divide the work? If it’s you who is burdened with the work and no one else would make it lighter, then maybe minimize the time that you spend on up-keeping and care. (For example, I have started to limit myself to only an hour a week to do cleaning/washing).
The important thing to realize is that this issue in prevalent on the entire planet, some countries more than others. The big unpaid work gap in many under developed countries stifle women from getting proper education, advancing in their careers, and in result, women do less paid work. This has a huge impact on the country’s economy, education, and overall improvement.
Again, this gap exists in all countries:
If you’d like to read more in depth about time, women, and the impact of unpaid work, read the full letter from the Gates here.
If you prefer a short video discussing the entirety of the letter, watch here.
In short, let’s be more respectful of everybody’s time and do our part to make our dear selfless care givers’ lives easier.