Unpaid labor is work even though no one pays for it. Worldwide, women still do the bulk of the unpaid labor, spending their valuable hours toiling to men’s advantage.
Domestic Labor Stats
According to the latest stats provided by the OECD, women spend 271 minutes daily engaged in unpaid labor compared to men’s 165. Men spend more time on paid work, but not enough to fill the gap between total minutes worked each day.
Women work for 518 minutes a day compared to men’s 497 hours.
Paid vs. Unpaid Crucial Distinction
There’s a massive difference between paid and unpaid work. Women sacrifice a great deal by working more in the home than outside of it.
Women who put more effort into housework and domestic labor often choose family over career. Some exit the workforce to care for children and cannot rejoin at the same level later.
Those who keep working often must choose flexibility over career progression and work shorter hours to keep up with the work at home.
Social Security Earnings
Less pay means less social security earnings, meaning older women are far more likely to end up in poverty than their male counterparts.
Women also miss out on funding their retirements. Because they need to work so much more at home, they earn less, meaning they can contribute less to their retirement accounts, leaving them in even more trouble as they age.
Women who sacrifice their career potential for unpaid labor lack options for supporting themselves. They may find themselves trapped in an abusive relationship or thrust into poverty should tragedy befall their partners.
The Work Must Be Done
However, the work doesn’t go away if women don’t do it. Many women must choose lower earnings and flexibility because they have no other options.
Who would care for the children if they didn’t? Who would keep the house clean, cook dinners, grocery shop, do the laundry, and ensure everyone has what they need to succeed?
Someone must step up to complete this work, and it’s usually women.
How Much Is the Work Worth?
All this begs the question: how much money is women’s work worth? If women were actually paid for all the domestic labor they complete, how much money would they earn?
Let’s look at all the work women do to find out.
Women are the primary caregivers for children. Though it varies significantly by state, the average cost for childcare in the US is $14,760 per year.
A stay-at-home mom would be above the poverty level for a single person in 2023 if she were paid to take care of one child each year.
The average chef’s salary in the US is a little over $50,000 per year. Of course, most mothers don’t attend culinary school, so it might be better to compare them to line cooks, who earn an average salary of $32,894 per year.
Maids and housekeepers earn an average salary of $29580 per year.
Many women also provide elder care for both their own and their partner’s aging parents. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, more women than men participate in elder care activities.
Half of those providing elder care do so at least several times per week, while a quarter provide care daily. On average, people who provide elder care spend about 30 hours per week on this activity.
Though it varies by state and specialty, the average cost of in-home (non-medical) senior care is $21 per hour, meaning that women who engage in elder care activities should earn approximately $32760 per year.
Women chauffeur their kids to school, sports, playdates, and a host of afterschool activities. Moms spend about 2 hours per week chauffeuring their kids. If they earned the average chauffeur salary of $22 per hour, they’d make forty bucks per week or an extra $2080 per year.
Outside of completing most tasks, women must also manage the household. They must make grocery lists, keep track of school schedules, remember everyone’s birthday, plan for special occasions, and maintain a running list of everything that needs to happen at all times.
In essence, women are the project managers of the household. Low-level project managers make about $50,000 per year.
Total Yearly Salary
A woman who does all these things would make $129,180 if paid for all her work. However, society doesn’t value women’s labor, so she does it all for free.
The salary betrays a fundamental fact about women’s unpaid work: the hours. Each of these average salaries assumes standard hours. However, a woman is always on. She takes care of children in the middle of the night. She’s responsible for three meals per day, every day. Keeping the house clean is a constant battle, as is managing all the household projects.
She’d likely earn far more than $129,000 based on how many hours she works daily.
Valuing Women’s Labor
People assume these tasks are just part of life that everyone has to deal with, so why should anyone get paid for them? The missing piece is that typically, “everyone” = women, not men. Men get to dedicate their time to working and building wealth, while the women in their lives toil endlessly and thanklessly to ensure he can succeed.
While some men are stepping up and doing more, many haven’t, so women must do it all if they don’t want their lives to crumble.
We need to make more effort to value women’s labor in society.
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