Unpaid work from recognition to transformation
1 / 20

Unpaid Work: From Recognition to Transformation - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

  • Uploaded on
  • Presentation posted in: General

Unpaid Work: From Recognition to Transformation. by Diane Elson, Levy Economics Institute and University of Essex Presentation to Hawke Research Institute University of South Australia. Questions. Is it enough to recognize the economic and social value of unpaid work?

I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.

Download Presentation

Unpaid Work: From Recognition to Transformation

An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Presentation Transcript

Unpaid Work: From Recognition to Transformation

by Diane Elson, Levy Economics Institute

and University of Essex

Presentation to Hawke Research Institute

University of South Australia


  • Is it enough to recognize the economic and social value of unpaid work?

  • Or do we also have to transform the social relations of unpaid work?

Unpaid Work and the Market Economy

Business sector

Formal paid work

Informal Work

Paid and unpaid


Formal paid


Labour Services

Good and services and monetary flows

Non profit institutions

Informal work Paid and unpaid

Formal paid


Volunteer work

Household Sector

Paid work

Unpaid work

Subsistence Work

Care Work

Recognition of Unpaid Work

  • Time Spent

  • Monetary Valuation

  • Social relations of unpaid work

  • Unpaid work as creation and depletion of well-being

Time Spent on Unpaid Work in Britain, 1999 Average Minutes per Day, population over 16 years

Source: Short, 2000, Office of National Statistics, London

Time Spent on Unpaid Work in South Africa, 2000Average Minutes per Day, Population 10 years and above


Source: Budlender and Brathaug, 2005, Table 2

Time Spent on Unpaid Work in India, 1998/9(combined average from 6 selected states)Average Minutes per Day, Population 6 years and above

Source: Calculated from Chakraborty, 2005, Table 3

Monetary Valuation of Unpaid WorkValue of unpaid work excluded from GDP as percentage of GDP

Sources: UK: Office for National Statistics, www.statistics.gov.uk/hhsa/hhsa/index.html South Africa: Bulender and Brathaug, 2005 India: Chakraborty, 2005

Unpaid Work Included in GDP

  • In principle, measurement of GDP includes subsistence production, including food processing, collecting water and fuel, in countries where these are substantial activities

  • In practice, GDP measures do not fully cover this unpaid work

Time Spent Collecting Water (average daily minutes)

Sources: South Africa: Calculated from Charmes, 2005, Table 6

India: Calculated from Chakraborty, 2005 Table 6

Reinforcing Patriarchy

  • Unequal division of paid and unpaid work

  • Disadvantages of specializing in unpaid work – financial dependence

  • Coercion, abuse and unpaid work

Unequal Division of Unpaid WorkAverage Minutes per Day by Sex

Sources: UK: Calculated from Short, 2000, Table 2

South Africa: Budlender and Brathaug, 2005, Table 2

India: Calculated from Chakraborty, Table 3

Over 1/2 a million more women than men are living in poverty

Women receive an average of just 54 pence for every 1 pound received by men

Following divorce, a woman’s income is likely to decline by nearly 1/5, a man’s income changes little

26% of employees work part-time, of these, 79% are women. Part-time jobs are low-paid and lack pension benefits

Hourly pay of women working part-time is 40% less than hourly pay of men working full-time

Only 13% of today’s women pensioners are entitled to the full basic state pension, compared to 92% of men

Disadvantages of Specializing in Unpaid Work, UK Examples

Source: Bellamy and Rake, 2005

Disadvantages of Specializing in Unpaid Work, South Africa and India

  • Concentration in informal employment

  • In South Africa, poverty rates of households headed by women, and in those in which the primary earner is female, are higher than in households headed by men, and in those in which the primary earner is male

  • In India, in the mid 90s, a higher proportion of adult females than of males, lived in poverty

Sources: South Africa: Chen et al., 2005, Table 3.12

India: Banerjee, 2000, quoted in Elson and Keklik, 2002

Subsidizing Private Profit

Directly, via the Labor Market

  • Reducing the wage costs of social reproduction

  • Reconciling workers to the capitalist labor process – enabling them “to feel like human beings in a system that treats them like commodities” (Picchio, 1992)

    Indirectly, via the State

  • Reducing public expenditure

  • And hence, reducing taxation

    Providing the Ultimate Safety Net

  • Unpaid work as a buffer

Unpaid Work and Public ExpenditureWomen’s unpaid work ‘funds’ public programs

  • Peru

    • Women run a public food distribution program

    • Valued at the minimum wage, their contribution amounts to 20% of the budget for the program

  • Netherlands

    • Women volunteer extensively in public schools and hospitals

  • South Africa and Barbados

    • Government funding does not cover full costs of running shelters for women subjected to domestic violence

    • NGOs, relying partly on voluntary labor, cover the gap

Source: Elson, forthcoming

Unpaid Work subsidizes health systems

  • Improving the “efficiency” of public hospitals in Canada and the UK

  • Home-based care for people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa

    • Ethiopia: Women spend 33.6 hours a week in agricultural production in households not affected by AIDS, but between 11.6 and 16.4 hours in households affected by AIDS (Bollinger, et al. 1999)

    • Zimbabwe: Unpaid household carers provided 17.5 – 24.5 hours of care per week. Estimated opportunity cost was $22 a month (Hansen, et al. 1994)

Dilemma: How to Recognize and Value Unpaid Work Without Reinforcing Patriarchy and Subsidizing Businesses and Governments?

  • Income tax

  • Income transfers related to children

  • Regulations and subsidies for parental leave

Should tax systems recognize the value of unpaid work by providing taxpayers with allowances for non-earning dependents who do unpaid work at home?

Should tax systems instead provide households with tax allowances/credits to cover some of the costs of purchasing substitutes for unpaid work?

If tax allowances/credits are related to childcare costs, how can the system be designed in ways that do not reinforce the idea that child care is solely the mother’s responsibility?

Income Tax

Regulations and Subsidies for Parental Leave

  • Should we call for the right to longer maternity leave?

  • Or the right to longer paternity leave, on a “use it” or “lose it” basis?

  • How should parental leave be funded?

  • Should it be funded on a flat rate or earnings related basis?

Key Challenges

  • Transforming unpaid work not just recognizing it

  • Sharing it equally between women and men

  • Supporting it by laws and public funding

  • Treating it as wealth-creating by businesses

  • Login