Why Are Women’s Working Weeks Getting Longer When We Are Paid Less?

According to a new report, we’re working an hour longer than a decade ago.

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by Esther Newman |
Updated on

According to a new report by the Resolution Foundation charity, the average woman's working week has increased by more than hour in the last decade alone; on average, an extra 65 minutes more than in 2009.

Longer work hours may seem to be part and parcel of busy, modern life, but the Resolution Foundation also credit the financial crisis of 2007-8 and the 12-year “stagnation” in real pay for causing women especially to have to look “for more hours of work to protect their family incomes”. While men's working weeks have increased by 40 minutes in the past decade, young women aged between 18 and 24 have also been hit the hardest.

Commenting on the report, George Bangham – a Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation – noted that the hourly increase actually goes against the grain for general working trends, namely a pattern of working weeks becoming shorter as women joined the workforce and people traded in working hours for more leisure time and a better work-life balance. For example, the report also reveals that the average working week has halved in length over the past 150 years – from around 64 hours in the 1850s to 32 hours in 2006.

“In recent decades rising female employment and the linked growth in male part time work have meant that households are sharing paid work more evenly, further driving down the average working week for individuals,” he reflected. “But falls in the average working week have stalled since the crisis, and working time has been rising for women.”

The report comes as an important time in the conversation about ‘burnout culture’. Now recognised as an official syndrome by the World Health Organisation, burnout is the nasty result of chronic workplace stress “that has not been successfully managed” and can lead to extreme exhaustion, a lack of productivity, negative and cynical thoughts and, in its most extreme cases, can cause sufferers to develop mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. In fact, it’s also been found to affect women in particular – recent research conducted by University College London and Queen Mary University of London has found that women who regularly work 55-hour weeks are more likely to suffer from depression than both men who work the same hours and women who work a more regular schedule.

The report by the Resolution Foundation – an independent think tank established to improve the standard of living of low- and middle-income families in Britain – raises significant questions around British working culture, namely low and ‘stagnate’ pay on women. The report comes as a bitter pill, especially when considering the gender pay gap – a division that sees women still earn 18% than men 49 years since the Equal Pay Act became law.

Currently, progress to close the gap is ‘dismally slow’ according to gender equal rights charity, the Fawcett Society. At the current rate of decline, the Fawcett Society have estimated that it will take several generations and up to 60 years to eradicate the gap. In truth, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that in 2019 the gender pay gap for full-time workers rose from the previous year – from 8.6% to to 8.9%.


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