By Atuhaire Joan Patience

Have you ever imagined working tireless hours to days to weeks to months to years without appreciation or value? That’s what unpaid care work looks like to most economies in the world.

Unpaid care work refers to all non-market, unpaid activities carried out in households. It includes  of persons, such as children or elderly, and indirect carestrong>, such as cooking, cleaning or fetching water. These tasks vary in physical effort and time-intensity, depending on location, socio-economic status, as well as age, marital status and number of children.

In Africa and around the world, most of the care work is performed by women . To be particular, our African culture lauds women “who can do it all”. Those who’ve mastered the art of single-handedly executing all the domestic work in a home.

Today I catch up from my previous blog to discuss how unpaid care work affects women’s ability to accumulate wealth.

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere in his book Women’s Freedom said;

“Women’s education is incomplete if it does not offer them anything more than merely preparing them to be used by their masters”

A 2018 study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that over 41% of the working-age women are unable to join the labour market because of their care work responsibilities. It is such a disproportionate workload of household chores that affects women’s financial earnings, sleep, leisure and overall participation in development initiatives.

ondly, very few economies measure up or value the contribution of unpaid care work to their economic growth in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In Africa, only South Africa has so far taken the initiative to value this work which it estimates at 14% of their GDP (Feram and Thim, 2019).

“There is no nation or people who will be able to develop as long as they are half -slave half -free persons.” Dr.James E. Kwegyir (1920)

The scourge of unpaid care work is so deep that a 2020 report by UNICEF shows that women and girls perform three times more care work as compared to their male counterparts.

The report also shows that this figure rises to ten times more care work for the women during a pandemic like the Corona Virus outbreak where we see all schools, institutions of learning, places of worship, business centres and most organisations closed in a bid to curb the spread of the Coronavirus.

And as always women are historically culturally and religiously placed in homes to undertake all the caregiving roles from hand washing to cooking and tutoring children.

A gender comparison of care work hours.

The gender inequalities in unpaid care work translate to even higher gender gaps in labour outcomes since women are yet again being left behind in terms of their earnings.

There can be no equality of women and men provided there are existent inequalities rooted in care work.
Do the inequalities in the workload reflect the possibility of accumulating wealth for women or do they exist to purposely maintain the status quo of the oppression of women and girls?

Women don’t deserve to carry such insurmountable loads of work. They deserve to live and find their purpose without being tied down to oppressive societal demands.

Chimamanda Adichie in her book Dear Ijeawele said:” Women don’t need to be championed or revered they just need to be treated as equal beings.”

Attaining gender equality is a slow but sure journey of rewriting our history and what informs the position of women and men.

For women to live life with dignity and purpose, we ought to preach and practice SDG 5.4 by recognising, reducing and redistributing unpaid care work in the following ways.

In Recognising unpaid care work, states have a role to encourage a
more equal distribution of unpaid care work at the family level, make unpaid care work visible and a priority on the policy agenda so that the contribution of unpaid care work is considered as a contributing factor to economic development.

  • To Reduce care work;

We must invest in time-saving technology and infrastructure such as electrification and improved access to water. This will ease the constraints on women’s time.

When rural electrification was introduced in South Africa, the time women spent on housework decreased, leading to a 9% increase in female labour participation (Dinkelman, 2011).

Increasing public and care services through better access to public services, child care and care for the elderly. This will support a better work-life balance. In India, the NGO Mobile Crèches provides child care services for women employed on public works programmes on construction sites. Such support is essential for working mother.

Longer school days or expand pre-school hours are alternatives for public day-care. The Kenyan
government, expanded its preschool education to four-to-five-years-olds children, increasing female labour participation (Cassirer and Addati, 2007).

  • Redistribution of care work.

Adopt family-friendly working policies such as maternity leave public subsidies of 14 weeks (ILO standard).

>This will improve women’s likelihood of taking leave instead of leaving the labour force entirely. In Morocco, increased maternity leave (from 12 to 14 weeks) was associated with an increased share of working mothers.

Equal amounts of maternity and paternity leave increase women’s employment by increasing
employer incentives to hire a woman. In Sweden, for example, a minimum share of available parental leave is reserved to fathers on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis, encouraging an equal sharing of caring responsibilities.

Introduction of family-friendly working conditions. This will enable parents to balance their working hours and caring responsibilities. A flexible work schedule or teleworking allows women and men to choose
working hours that better accommodate their caring responsibilities.

Now more than ever, we must de-feminise care work reshape gender norms that prevent men from assuming equal gender roles because women are indeed human beings in the same way that men are. In all affairs that depend on the intellect, there is no known difference between the two genders therefore power differences must never be used as a pretext to deny women opportunities of participation in nation-building