For some reason, unpaid work sounds better than working for free and when you read that women are really working for free and that work is worth a whopping $1.48 trillion annually in the US alone, it is hard-hitting. Furthermore, if women’s work includes women across the world, this could add up to $10.8 trillion. This report by Oxfam, an international organization whose focus is one the eradication of poverty, revealed this key finding. Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America’s vice president of policy and advocacy said in a statement, “Women and girls, who spend billions of hours cooking, cleaning, and caring for children and the elderly are the backbone of our global economy, yet benefit the least from it.”
By the time girls are 10 to 14 years old, there are already doing 50% of housework and caregiving
This disparity was just one of many global iniquities, but the reality is that from birth to death no matter who we are, someone hopefully has taken care of us and most of the time it has been a woman and she probably wasn’t paid for it. For caregivers like burses and nannies, it is paid work to look after patients, the elderly, and babies, however, for family members, looking after children and the old is not paid work and is also around-the-clock activity. The fact remains that from a very young age, girls are doing unpaid work, and according to a 2016 UNICEF global report, girls aged 5 to 9 are doing 30 percent of unpaid work and by the time they are 10 to 14 years old, they are already doing 50 percent of unpaid work like caregiving, as compared to their male counterparts. Hence, as they grow older this bracket keeps on increasing which means that women are losing out on working paid jobs, particularly women from low-income communities and this is true through Asia, Africa, and other continents.
Good care work is an essential foundation for economic activities; the whole economic system would not function without it
These numbers calculated by Oxfam was also presented at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos and it shed light on how deeply the world is underestimating unpaid work. Oxfam expert Ellen Ehmke, said “We don’t imply that these 11 trillion dollars should be paid to caregivers, but they have to receive material security for their work. That is what we as a society have to recognize and finance.” One of the authors of the report, Jörn Kalinski said, “Good care work is [an] essential foundation for other economic activities; the whole economic system would not function without it and this foundation system is not economically valued.” Imagine what the world would look like if women stopped doing unpaid work. Wouldn’t there be utter chaos? However, unpaid work is also the foundation of inequality across the world because the world economic system is sexist; women and young girls are working too much and this work is unrecognized and invisible. In a utopian world, people would have the choice of whether to cook, clean or take care of their family members themselves, however, this is far from the reality of the world today, since most women can’t even imagine a world like that.
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