'Women's work' back in the spotlight with Labor pledge

Labor pledges funds to restart unpaid work surveys.

'Women's work' back in the spotlight with Labor pledge

“What we don’t count, counts for nothing,” says Marilyn Waring, a founder of feminist economics. Which means that the Labor Party promise to give the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) extra money to restart its unpaid work surveys is great news.

Ms Waring argues that we can never understand the economic value of unpaid work if we don’t count the hours.

The ABS conducted detailed time-use surveys in 1992, 1997 and 2006 but cancelled the 2013 stocktake due to funding cuts under the Julia Gillard Government.

The studies record the time Australians spend doing unpaid work such as caring for children and older people and doing housework. They are regarded as one of the most reliable estimates of such work.

Ahead of International Women’s Day today, Labor pledged that if it wins government, it would give the ABS an extra $15.2 million between 2019 and 2029 to run time-use surveys in 2020 and 2027.

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek says: “Women do three-quarters of the childcare, two-thirds of the housework and 70 per cent of the caring for elderly or disabled family members and friends.

“But Australia has no way of calculating the value to the economy of that unpaid caring work. The last time the survey was done was before we had iPhones.

“The last time we did the sums – back in 1997 – our unpaid work was worth $261 billion – equivalent to almost half of Australia’s GDP that year.”

Community leaders acknowledge that the imbalance in women doing the bulk of unpaid work has implications for their economic insecurity through poorer superannuation and retirement balances when compared to men.

The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) reported last year that men retire with an average of $113,660 more in super than women.

Ms Plibersek said that caring patterns were changing as more men took advantage of paternity and special leave to help raise and care for their families, but acknowledged that further changes were dependant on businesses agreeing to requests for more flexible work arrangements.

An Australian Human Rights Commission report says mothers spend twice as many hours looking after children under 15 each week compared with fathers.

“We make it difficult for men to take on what’s still thought of as ‘women's work’,” Ms Plibersek said.

“But the root of the problem is that as a society we don't place enough value on caring work. We can start to make a change by acknowledging its economic importance.”

A new United Nations report estimates that women do 2.6 times the amount of unpaid care and domestic work that men do: childcare, cooking, cleaning, looking after elderly parents.

But women are not compensated, and many national economies usually don't calculate it.

Shahra Razavi, chief of research and data at UN Women, says the reason this kind of unpaid work isn't calculated in GDP is because in most countries it is considered ‘women’s work’ and regarded as less valuable.

“If women stopped doing a lot of the work they do unpaid, then the whole economy would collapse,” she says.

Is there an imbalance in unpaid work in your household? Are there economic implications?

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    COMMENTS

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    8th Mar 2018
    9:54am
    Labor continues to find new ways to waste taxpayer dollars.
    This is a joke
    Anonymous
    8th Mar 2018
    12:29pm
    In this case, I agree.
    Tib
    8th Mar 2018
    2:18pm
    Yes Raphael I agree as well.
    Anonymous
    8th Mar 2018
    2:22pm
    Lefties agreeing with me for once
    There’s hope for you two yet
    Tib
    8th Mar 2018
    2:31pm
    If the left keeps this feminist crap up their next party meeting will be in a phone booth.
    Rosret
    8th Mar 2018
    11:18am
    Why? $15m could be spent elsewhere. The ABS has computers and linked databases to all sorts of information. Just write the SQL query and voila.
    Yes, keep getting the message out for equal pay for equal work. Just a little tip though the more female doctors and lawyers trained the lower their income will become.
    Traditional female jobs get paid less than male dominated careers.
    Anonymous
    8th Mar 2018
    12:30pm
    "Traditional female jobs get paid less than male dominated careers."

    That would be because they require less training and skill.
    Anonymous
    8th Mar 2018
    3:10pm
    Can't agree with that statement, Knows-a-lot. Many female jobs require substantial training and skill. Unfortunately, the training and skill needed is often not acknowledged and women are allowed to do some jobs without it. Mothering is a classic example. No job anywhere requires more training and skill, yet little is offered and none is required.
    Anonymous
    8th Mar 2018
    3:38pm
    OnlyGrumprainey is at her whinging best again
    Tell me which jobs do women get paid less than men

    And which "women only" jobs do you propose women should have their wages artificially boosted at the expense of the taxpayer

    Are there women only jobs in this day and age ?
    Triss
    8th Mar 2018
    3:52pm
    Surrogate mothers is one that comes to mind, Raphael.
    Hasbeen
    8th Mar 2018
    4:39pm
    Now they want to count child care as work.

    My daughter said it all after 6 months off with her first baby.

    She didn't want to go back to work, she wanted to stay home & "play with my baby".
    JAID
    10th Mar 2018
    8:54am
    And whether it is a male or female wishing to stay at home to "play with the baby" it is all part of an agreed family economy. When we form groups we assess demand, capacity and intensity then agree (often tacitly) something of the structure of response.

    Australia has largely become a place where it takes two working incomes to support a family in the manner to which they would like to become accustomed. It is not impossible to operate on a single income but most find it difficult.

    With combined incomes and the energy spent making them it is natural that structures traditionally found to work should be replaced. Yet, the nature of those structures are still the prevail of the individuals and the contracts they make. It is our prerogative to work through and agree ways our family or group economies work.

    Government has no role in this. Any government role automatically asserts a norm, appropriates the individual or group's responsibility to negotiate and fine tune individual responsibilities according to their unique environment and converts some of that responsibility to a cost in time for all individuals in society.

    We are big boys and girls. When we became that we should be able to expect to contract our various harmless paths without smothering interference from government.
    Sundays
    8th Mar 2018
    12:24pm
    We can acknowledge the economic importance without spending money on a survey. We don’t need another publication which can be waved around, but doesn’t bring about any meaningful change. We can’t afford to compensate women (or anyone else) for unpaid work. We just need to value it more.

    8th Mar 2018
    12:29pm
    Feminism is not about gender equality, but the subjugation of men. While the women are caring for kids etc., the father is working his backside off, and putting himself into a grave before his female partner dies, in order to put a roof over their heads. So-called unpaid work is therefore the equivalent of rent, and such women deserve no further payment.
    tisme
    8th Mar 2018
    12:42pm
    like the unpaid carers who care for often several family members adult as well as children 24 hours a day 7 days a week. cancer, car crashes, mental health issues etc etc etc with no support and if lucky the government pays them $3.50 an hour . if they slip and fall in a shop they will find it hard to get legal help , as carers they aren't legally recognised as workers so their work doesn't suffer.
    Sundays
    8th Mar 2018
    1:11pm
    Yes, it’s hard being a carer for a sick relative. I’ve been there. I didn’t qualify for the careers pension which is a lot more than Newstart, and saying $3.50 an hour is misleading. but had to keep working. I was lucky to share the caring which allowed me to do part time work. I didn’t think about the Govt having to support me financially but as bad luck which unfortunately happens to most of us at some point.
    KSS
    8th Mar 2018
    1:01pm
    I thought that looking after your own children (- which includes providing them with a clean safe place to live, clothing, food, etc) was the sole responsibility of the parents.
    Likewise looking after family members is the responsibility of the family. Social norms dictate we keep our homes clean, our clothes & and ourselves washed, shop and cook for meals etc. No distinction there between men and women in the unpaid work department.

    If a woman stopped doing all the "unpaid work" she too would live in squalor, go hungry and wear dirty rags not just the (male) partner she may live with. Any children would (rightly) be taken off her for neglect and dereliction of parental responsibility. And no, it wouldn't be the man's fault!

    Exactly the same would happen if the man also stopped doing "unpaid work". No inequality there!

    I would suggest that anyone (male, female or undecided) with a job who stopped doing the unpaid extra hours at work would have a far greater effect on the national economy than women stopping caring for their own home and children plus maybe an elderly relative!
    Bella
    8th Mar 2018
    1:18pm
    Knows-a-lot I find your comment very old fashioned and insulting.
    I don't believe there should be a survey but a little appreciation would go a long way for those mum's that elect to stay home and look after their children, wash their husbands clothes and make sure he has a meal to come home to, I don't believe they should be paid for this as I believe it is a choice we make to have children. I have had three children, worked longer hours than a lot of men in the paid workforce and I have still attended all sporting activities, kept my house clean and cooked the meals sacrificing my own sleep. I have also supported our family when the times were tough on the farm and my husband wasn't able to bring in an income. I believe that a family is a unit and if you love someone you don't have an attitude as bad as you about the woman's place in the home. You would go off to work knowing that your children are looked after and so are you.
    If our childcare was cheaper these woman would be able to join the workforce. My two grandchildren have been in childcare at a cost of $42,000 a year after the rebate maybe this $15m would be better spent in reducing childcare.
    Anonymous
    8th Mar 2018
    1:37pm
    "Knows-a-lot I find your comment very old fashioned and insulting."

    Tough. Tell me where it's untrue.

    "I don't believe there should be a survey but a little appreciation would go a long way for those mum's that elect to stay home and look after their children, wash their husbands clothes and make sure he has a meal to come home to"

    That appreciation is shown by the man putting a roof over her head. Quid pro quo.

    "I don't believe they should be paid for this as I believe it is a choice we make to have children."

    Then what are you whining about?

    " I have had three children, worked longer hours than a lot of men in the paid workforce and I have still attended all sporting activities, kept my house clean and cooked the meals sacrificing my own sleep."

    That was your choice. And women do not work longer hours than men. At my peak, I worked 20-hour days.

    " I have also supported our family when the times were tough on the farm and my husband wasn't able to bring in an income."

    As you should!

    " I believe that a family is a unit and if you love someone you don't have an attitude as bad as you about the woman's place in the home"

    It's the women with the bad attitude, not me. They moan about doing housework while hubby keeps them housed, safe and secure.

    "You would go off to work knowing that your children are looked after and so are you."

    Yeah, and I'm working my butt off to pay for it all...

    "If our childcare was cheaper these woman would be able to join the workforce."

    Childcare should be cut right back. If you can't afford to have kids and raise them yourself, don't have them. This is one reason why there are so many snotty, selfish little brats running around nowadays: they have not been well raised by their parents.

    "My two grandchildren have been in childcare at a cost of $42,000 a year after the rebate maybe this $15m would be better spent in reducing childcare."

    Your grandkids' parents have abrogated their parental responsibilities in pursuit of the almighty dollar.
    JAID
    10th Mar 2018
    9:12am
    Childcare is the responsibility of the parents whether directly or by paid caring. We have enjoyed a wonderfully generous government in this regard. $42K for two children in childcare is a staggering amount. Another indication of what happens when government takes 'responsibility' for, largely, an entire sector.

    Massive incomes and intricate costly requirements across the board at the same time as reward for excellence is removed from the equation. We see it in teaching, nursing, policing though not so grossly as we see it in minister's staffing.

    The callous disregard for other peoples time is staggering. That any would have children without first having high confidence of being able to sustain them defies neighbourliness. In a world with too many people what would the population growth rate be if people appreciated their responsibility? 50%, 25% of what it is now? What would it be in Australia? (I doubt that 50% would be an unfair figure.)
    Bella
    8th Mar 2018
    1:21pm
    KSS Great comment and so true.
    Puglet
    8th Mar 2018
    2:46pm
    Bella, ignore these misogynist, bitter blokes, it’s just not worth it. Most of the men I know including my ex-husband understand that women and men should expect equality in career choice, roles, salary etc and behave accordingly. They also know women do most of the unpaid work and appreciate it. They have moved into the 2st C and they and their partners are much happier for it. Most of the people in my street with young kids take shared parental leave and it’s wonderful to see blokes assuming greater parental roles. It’s equally great that my plumber and electrician are women as was the car mechanic. There are also men who are ‘stay at home dads’ and it’s just great. It is changing - not quickly enough but the trogdyltes will die off soon. So have a great International Women’s Day.
    Charlie
    8th Mar 2018
    2:14pm
    What we don't count, doesn't count for nothing, it simply doesn't have a money value.

    The other extreme is trying to put a money value on everything.

    We could have coin operated female robots if it comes to that.
    Tib
    8th Mar 2018
    2:26pm
    Last year the US had the " day without a women" protest. Women stopped work , had a day off , stopped unpaid work and even stopped shopping for the day. So what happened , there was no effect at all. You don't do enough to make a difference. Now imagine what would happen if men stopped work, now that would stop everything and I mean everything, except for women bitching that is.
    Anonymous
    8th Mar 2018
    3:39pm
    Did productivity/man hour double on that day ?
    Tib
    8th Mar 2018
    4:00pm
    Ha ha I don't believe any extra work was done by men to cover the absence of their female co workers. From what I could find out their day off didn't make any difference at all. Which I suppose should of increased the productivity/ man hour but questions must have been asked about their value to the company. I hope the employers are listening.
    Triss
    8th Mar 2018
    4:25pm
    Good heavens, you two, you could supply half a dozen Macdonalds with the number of chips on your shoulders.
    Tib
    8th Mar 2018
    8:25pm
    Triss you're a typical woman, shovel BS all day but when someone complains you tell them they have a chip on their shoulders.
    Old Man
    8th Mar 2018
    2:31pm
    Has anyone bothered to ask the women who choose to stay at home and raise a family rather than try and raise a family and go to work? No, I didn't think so. I have had a gutful of those people who have an agenda and want all of us to fall in line with their way of thinking. I will make up my own mind on issues such as women's superannuation, climate change, coal-fired power stations and the state of the Great Barrier Reef. I won't presume that my thoughts are so superior to anyone else's thoughts that I will force them to change their thinking.
    GeorgeM
    8th Mar 2018
    11:59pm
    Well, there's another reason NOT to vote for Labor (without "u")!
    They sorely need to get rid of this nut-job Tanya.


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