International Women’s Day 2022

International Women’s Day 2022

#BreakTheBias

According to the ILO, “work or service” entails any form of work, service and employment, that takes place in any industry, activity, or sector. It is noted that this also includes in the informal economy. The term also covers activities which may be illegal or not viewed as “work” in certain places, such as prostitution or begging.
Although the Centre for Trafficking, Exploitation and Modern Slavery Studies focuses predominantly on matters relating to slavery, we thought we would use the theme of this year’s IWD, breaking the bias, to showcase the fine line between forced labour and the additional pressures on women across the world relating to unrecognized and unpaid work. This does not mean that the Centre is seeking to equate the two issues. The idea is rather to highlight the similarities, and even more importantly, showcase a correlation between causes and effects of systemic patriarchal structures that link the two issues in more ways than one would initially expect. 
For this purpose, we have collated a range of information and data with the intention to encourage discourse on the matter and ultimately to #BreakTheBias in this specific area. The additional burdens of unrecognised and unpaid labour of women is a consequence of gender stereotypes and widespread views of differentiated obligations of men and women which are not accepted as equally valuable in society. These dynamics are not only holding back women’s equality, empowerment and progress, but are also contributing to the vulnerabilities that can lead to further exploitation. 
The Covid-19 pandemic further impacted this issue. Not only were these dynamics now unpaid and unrecognised, but also unseen. Thus, in light of the #BreakTheBias theme of IWD this year, we are also calling upon women to speak up and share their experiences of additional unpaid, unrecognised and unseen work during the pandemic. As such, we are asking all women who have been affected by unpaid and unrecognised work during the pandemic to post videos, photos, prose etc on social media, linking to our page (@HumeCentreTeams) with the hashtags: #BreakTheBias #UnseenWomensWork
Below we will be collating the posts in our live-tracker.
Please note that every post may contribute to bettering the lives of women across the globe, as the shared experiences will contribute to breaking the bias in this area.

Unpaid and Unrecognised Work During the Covid-19 Pandemic

– Some Context

It has long been a known, yet underappreciated, fact that women across the globe are responsible for approximately three quarters of the total unpaid work, adding up to approximately 11 billion hours each day (Langer et al., 2015). Globally women undertake three times more care and domestic work than men, (UN Women, 2020)
Unpaid and unrecognised work often involves work pertaining to care responsibilities, which our patriarchal society often deems low value and in not accounted for within mainstream economics. As such, these duties, although essential for the functioning of every economy and vital for the success of every industry, are not viewed as actual contributions.
The Covid-19 pandemic significantly impacted all aspects of life for everyone. However, it became evident relatively early into the pandemic that the nature of the consequences varied by demographic, with sex having a significant influence on the way the pandemic influenced people.
For instance, the Covid-19 virus itself reportedly impacted the health of older men disproportionately. At the same time, the burden of the economic impact was mostly carried by younger demographics and women. Although women seemed to be more resilient to the health effects of COVID-19 in terms of health outcomes, the non-pharmaceutical interventions enforced by governments across the world, mostly affected employment sectors in which a larger proportion of women work, thereby disproportionately enhancing gender inequalities in all areas of labour, including the unpaid and unrecognised work, as well as financial vulnerability of women. Moreover, the increase of remote working conditions impacted the workload of mothers of small children more than any other demographic (Eurofound, 2020).
The non-pharmaceutical interventions implemented by governments in order to slow down the spread of Covid-19 saw a majority of tasks usually afforded to other people or institutions outwith the home move into the sphere of domestic chores. These activities included, amongst other things, domestic work, education and childcare and the care of elderly dependents – all activities which are generally afforded to female gender stereotypes (Power, 2020). Thus, much of these activities were undertaken by women in an unpaid and unrecognised capacity, often in addition to their usual full-time work (Pettigrew, 2021).
Although the media has emphasised the increase in care and domestic work undertaken by men during the Covid-19 pandemic, which of course has been an improvement, it was also the case, that the unpaid and unrecognised duties of women significantly increased as well, often disproportionately impacting women’s mental health (Chauhan, 2021). To illustrate, Mascherini and Nivakoski (2021) calculated that over the summer of 2020, women spent an average of 37 hours a week on childcare related tasks, more than 60% more than men, and almost equivalent to a full time work load in itself.
Today, on IWD 2022, the Centre for Trafficking, Exploitation and Modern Slavery Studies hopes to place the spotlight on all the additional work undertaken by women over the past 2 years.
 
Key Facts and Figures:
  • Women already had a historically disproportionate proportion of unpaid and unrecognised responsibilities, mostly within the home involving domestic and care work
  • 75% of the total global unpaid and unrecognised workload is undertaken by women
  • Worldwide, women undertake three times more care and domestic work than men
  • The measures sought by governments to slow down the spread of Covid-19 has significantly widened the inequality gap between sexes, including an exacerbation of women’s pre-existing burden of unpaid und unrecognised work
  • Due to the closure of schools and childcare facilities, and restrictions on who was allowed to enter private homes (housekeeping employees, relatives etc.), women were taking on disproportionately more of the additional childcare and domestic duties
  • More women were forced to give up or reduce remunerated work in order to mitigate the additional unpaid and unrecognised workload.
  • While there may be several reasons for the previous point, two major ones include expectations driven by traditional gender norms, as well as the already existing gender wage gap, which made it more likely for women to give up their remunerated work in comparison to men, due to lesser opportunity costs (Alon et al., 2020).

Bibliography

Alon, T., Doepke, M., Olmstead-Rumsey, J., & Tertilt, M. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 on gender equality (No. w26947). National Bureau of economic research.
Chauhan, P. (2021). Gendering COVID-19: Impact of the pandemic on women’s burden of unpaid work in India. Gender Issues, 38(4), 395-419.
Eurofound (2020), Living, working and COVID-19, COVID-19 series, Publications Office of the European Union.
Langer, A., Meleis, A., Knaul, F. M., Atun, R., Aran, M., Arreola-Ornelas, H., … & Frenk, J. (2015). Women and health: the key for sustainable development. The Lancet, 386(9999), 1165-1210.
Mascherini, M. & Nivakoski, S. (2021). Gender Differences in the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Employment, Unpaid Work and Well-Being in the EU. Intereconomics, 56(5), 254-260.
Pettigrew, R. N. (2021). An Untenable Workload: COVID-19 and the Disproportionate Impact on Women’s Work-Family Demands. Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences, 113(4), 8-15.
Power, K. (2020). The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the care burden of women and families. Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy, 16(1), 67-73.
UN Women. (2020). Progress of the world’s women 2019-2020: Families in a Changing World. Chapter 5. Caring families, caring societies. 140-73.