Looking after children, doing laundry, cooking and cleaning, it’s a laborious job that never receives the credit it deserves. More than that, it never receives the payment it deserves, at least according to the new figures from the Office for National Statistics.
The ONS released data from 2015 and 2016 yesterday, revealing that unpaid household work is worth £1.24trillion per year, with equates to £18,932 per person. So basically, if you’re the stay at home spouse in your relationship, or the one doing all of the house work on top of your regular job, your salary deserves a top up of almost 20 grand.
According to the ONS, the value of unpaid household work is more than that of the UK’s entire retail and manufacturing output combined, and great than the total contribution of the UK’s non-financial corporation sector.
They decided to research the topic in order to better understand UK living standards. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is typically used as an indicator of our wellbeing, however as this doesn’t account for unpaid household work, it’s considered an inaccurate portrayal of our living standards.
‘GDP is without question one of our most important economic indicators. It tells us about the size and shape of the economy,’ said Richard Tonkin, the ONS assistant director, ‘GDP is, however, incomplete. It is often, and incorrectly, used as an all-encompassing proxy for people’s living standards, something it was never designed for and which it doesn’t fully capture.’
Finding that the total value of unpaid household work has increased by more than 80% since 2005, the figure accounts not just for childcare and cleaning, but also driving to work. In fact, in 2016, transport accounted for 28.8% of the total value of unpaid work, with childcare coming to a close second.
What is telling about this data, is that it’s not been gendered in any way. When previously researching this data in 2014, the ONS revealed in women carried a greater burden of unpaid work than men. ‘On average, men do 16 hours a week of such unpaid work … [compared with] the 26 hours of unpaid work done by women a week,’ that said.
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While this data doesn’t compare the household work by gender, there is little evidence to suggest the housework gender gap has changed. In fact, earlier this year it was revealed that this inequality begins in children. The Maryland Population Research Centre published a report that showed girls aged 15 to 19 spend almost two hours more per week on housework than boys the same age. Further than that, BusyKid – a chore app – analysed their users data and found that boys earned twice what girls did for chores every week.
Essentially, women are still performing the notorious double shift, and now that unpaid work is more valuable than ever. Until parents stop rewarding boys for behaviours that are expected of girls, and men stop shafting their responsibilities, this gap will prevail.