Unpaid Work by Women Globally Undervalued in Economic Statistics, Says Oxfam
A recent report by Oxfam has highlighted that the majority of work done by women around the world is unpaid. The charity estimates that approximately 65% of women’s working hours are not remunerated, and it argues that official statistics should be revised to recognize and value their contribution. Oxfam’s analysis of international labor data also reveals that 45% of weekly work done by both men and women globally is unpaid care. This includes domestic duties such as cooking and cleaning, which are often carried out by women but are not accounted for in economic figures such as gross domestic product (GDP).
Oxfam criticizes the measurement of GDP as “anti-feminist and colonial” because it perpetuates a framework that only values what can be monetized. The charity argues that this framework renders women’s work invisible and confines it to the “private” sphere. Oxfam emphasizes the need to recognize and value unpaid care work, stating that without it, the global economy would collapse.
Earlier research conducted this year in England and Wales found that the value of unpaid care is almost equivalent to a second National Health Service (NHS), with unpaid carers saving the government £162 billion per year in wages. Additionally, a study by the Centre for Progressive Policy thinktank revealed that women in the UK provide more than twice as much unpaid childcare per year compared to men, with 23.2 billion hours contributed by women and 9.7 billion hours by men.
Anam Parvez, the author of the Oxfam report, accuses governments of being too fixated on GDP and suggests that policies should be guided by a broader set of metrics that consider the whole picture. Parvez states that women are being short-changed globally, pushed further into time and income poverty, and that the majority of their work is ignored by official statistics. She describes unpaid care as a hidden subsidy to the global economy.
The UK government acknowledges the limitations of traditional economic measures, such as GDP, but still considers them to be useful indicators of economic performance. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has been allocated an additional £25 million to improve economic statistics and is working on plans to go beyond GDP by developing new and innovative metrics that reflect the impact of economic change on people and the environment.
Overall, Oxfam’s report sheds light on the undervaluation of unpaid work by women in economic statistics. The charity calls for a shift in how we measure and value work, recognizing the significant contribution of unpaid care to the global economy.