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Women Work Four More Years Than Men

23 September 2016 at 3:35 pm
Ellie Cooper
Women globally are working an average of four years longer than men over their lifetime, largely due to women’s additional unpaid housework and care work.

Ellie Cooper | 23 September 2016 at 3:35 pm


Women Work Four More Years Than Men
23 September 2016 at 3:35 pm

Women globally are working an average of four years longer than men over their lifetime, largely due to women’s additional unpaid housework and care work.

The ActionAid report, Not Ready, Still Waiting, said this figure equated to one month of extra work a year, for every year of a woman’s life.

The findings form part of ActionAid’s research into how countries are preparing to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals they pledged to take action on one year ago.

ActionAid International CEO Adriano Campolina said governments around the world were failing to tackle gender inequality.

“The impressive promises world leaders made to improve the world by 2030 won’t be met if governments don’t starting taking their commitments seriously,” Campolina said.

“One year on, they’ve not even started work to reduce the inequality that has such stark impacts on women and girls.

“On average, women spend over three and a half hours a day on household chores – two and a half hours more than men.”  

The report said women would continue to experience inequality unless the “vastly disproportionate” levels of unpaid work were recognised, reduced and redistributed.

It found, on average globally, women’s additional hours of unpaid work over their lifetime came to an estimated 23 working years, based on a man’s average working day of 6.79 hours.

Campolina said there were a number of ways governments could address the inequality.

“All governments, rich and poor, must develop and be held accountable to plans that reduce inequality,” he said.

“The accompanying policies must recognise, redistribute and reduce women’s unpaid care work, improve women and young people’s decent work opportunities and wages, and improve women’s access to and control over natural and economic resources.”

In the Australian context, the report found that, despite being a wealthy nation, high income inequality was also contributing to gender inequality.  

“People can experience multiple and overlapping inequalities, regardless of where they live. Australia ranked second in the 2015 UN Human Development Index and has legislative protection against gender discrimination so it seems realistic that it should be able to achieve SDG 5 [gender equality] and SDG 10 [reduced inequalities],” the report said.

“Yet inequality is growing. Women, especially those who are further affected by discrimination because of race, age, disability and poverty, face worsening inequality.

“The wealth of the top 20 per cent of Australians is 70 times more than the wealth of the bottom 20 per cent.

“The gender pay gap has increased since 2004, women are paid 17.3 per cent less than men. This pay disparity, coupled with the unpaid care work that women manage, leads to women having less than half the retirement income of men, whilst living longer.

“This means that some older women experience extreme hardship, including increased rates of homelessness.”

The report also highlighted the disproportionate number of men in power in Australia – only 34 per cent of parliamentarians and 24 per cent of the current government are women.

ActionAid Australia’s head of communications Holly Miller told Pro Bono Australia News gender inequality had a significant impact on Australian women.

“It’s an issue with rights… women don’t have full access to their human rights, largely because a lot of their time is spent focused on unpaid care work,” Miller said.

“Also that unpaid care is a result of the fact that services aren’t provided to ensure that everybody has access to their rights, and so it’s women who often step in.

“It’s just really creating some significant inequality between men and women, which means that women don’t have the same access to finance to fund the critical elements of their lives and the lives of those they take responsibility for, and so we see women not standing on equal footing.”

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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