Unequal burden: how the COVID-19 pandemic is adding to women’s workloads

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Alex Thornton, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • COVID-19 restrictions mean both men and women spend longer doing jobs around the home.
  • Women have seen a larger increase in unpaid work than men.
  • Evidence shows that COVID-19 is reinforcing traditional social and cultural gender norms.
  • A new report for UN Women analyses data from 38 countries around the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the economic downturn it has caused, have hit everyone hard. But the impact has not been spread equally. A new report by UN Women has found clear evidence that, although both genders have seen their unpaid workloads increase, women are bearing more of the burden than men.

a chart showing how childcare is divided between men and women
Women still do much more than men. Image: “Whose time to care?”, UN Women

Even before the pandemic, women were spending on average three times as many hours as men on domestic chores, childcare and looking after vulnerable or elderly loved ones. Widespread restrictions on daily life, school closures, disruption to businesses and a big rise in working from home have made many tasks more time-consuming and arduous.

As the following charts show, more women than men have reported an increase in their workload in almost every aspect of domestic life.

Putting in the extra hours

The data also shows more men saying that they usually don’t do a particular task.

The average woman now spends nearly the equivalent of a full-time job doing unpaid childcare – a full working day a week more than the average man. —“Whose time to care?”, UN Women

Nearly a third of women report spending more time cooking and serving meals, compared to just under a fifth of men. Half of all men say they don’t normally get involved in preparing food at all.

a chart showing the division of domestic labour
Women are more likely to increase the time spent on household chores. Image: “Whose time to care?”, UN Women

A similar picture emerges when looking at childcare. Research for UN Women carried out by Ipsos in 16 countries showed that before the pandemic women spent an average of 26 hours per week looking after children, compared to 20 hours a week for men. That has now risen by 5.2 hours for women, and just 3.5 hours for men. As a result, the average woman now spends nearly the equivalent of a full-time job doing unpaid childcare – a full working day a week more than the average man.

a chart showing how childcare differs by sex across countries
The time spent on childcare, as divided by sex, differs across countries. Image: “Whose time to care?”, UN Women

And as the chart shows, there are big regional differences. Although every nation surveyed showed a rise, the effects were most pronounced in less affluent countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa, compared to wealthier countries.


Via https://europeansting.com/2020/12/29/unequal-burden-how-the-covid-19-pandemic-is-adding-to-womens-workloads/



12 thoughts on “Unequal burden: how the COVID-19 pandemic is adding to women’s workloads

  1. Organising a household with children is like trying to herd cats. You arrange something then someone arbitrarily throws a spanner in the works. Now we have the government playing the idiot bully child scuppering arrangements and multiplying the work. Women are overburdened and seething – does govt give a hoot? They’re having a laugh!


  2. When my husband retired, he said he would share housework equally with me. And he kept his word. I must say, he always did his share of housework. He tried to avoid gardening though, and he was not very good with any kind of handyman work. He never wanted us to pay for any work that needed doing, unless it was stricly unavoidable. Saving money for holidays and overseas trips was more important!
    No way was I exploited. I had a good life while my husband was still alive. The last few years he became more and more disabled. Still, he tried always to do his best right to the bitter end. Now that I am alone, I depend on my children to oversee some necessary renovations to house and garden! With no more travels because of the Coronavirus, money is saved for all renovations.


      • Around me everything seems to be at a standstill right now.
        There were a lot of changes during the past year —-
        The New Year most likely will bring even more changes.
        I think I do not want to be in volved too much with anything.
        I suppose I am just an observer. Even more so now considering my very advanced age!
        Wishing you all the best for the New Year, dear Stuart! 🙂


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