While we were researching material for our episode 3 of the House of Apis® podcast: How to be a “Good Girl”: The Impact of Culture and Context we came across research around the concept of Time Poverty; we knew the concept but didn’t realize how prevalent it is and how it affects women worldwide.
Let’s review some of the data; “Every day, all over the world, women and girls perform countless hours of work without pay. Girls are socialised to be caretakers from an early age. Worldwide, girls between the ages of 10 and 14 spend 50% more time helping around the house than boys of the same age. By adulthood, women in developed and developing nations spend an average of 2 and 3.4 times as many hours per day as men on unpaid work, respectively, shouldering the heaviest burden of cooking, cleaning, and caring for children and the elderly.”*
The concept of Time Poverty reflects how societies have been running from the start of times. It was a “woman’s responsibility” to take care of the home and children, as well as the household chores. The moment that women started working outside of the home, the spreading of the chores didn’t change and the burden of responsibilities on women increased.
“Time poverty is linked to lower well-being, physical health and productivity. Individuals, organisations and policymakers often overlook the pernicious effects of time poverty. Billions of dollars are spent each year to alleviate material poverty, while time poverty is often ignored or exacerbated.” **
Studies also point out that Time Poverty contributes to self-neglect and prevents women from pursuing educational and/or professional opportunities hindering their economical independence.
A Gates foundation letter from 2016 recognizes that “The world is making progress by doing three things economists call Recognize, Reduce, and Redistribute: Recognize that unpaid work is still work. Reduce the amount of time and energy it takes. And Redistribute it more evenly between women and men. “ ***
There’s still some work to do but at least in some places, household chores are being recognized as work and paid as such; that is the case with Mrs. Wang in Beijing, China. In February, a divorce court ordered her husband to pay more than $7700 in compensation for the housework she performed during five years of marriage. This is a landmark decision that activists are hoping will lead to greater protections for women in China. Granted, that amount of money might not be so much for the “job” performed but we’ll take that win for women in China and around the world! ****
*Time poverty: Obstacle to women’s human rights, health and sustainable development
**Giurge, L.M., Whillans, A.V. & West, C. Why time poverty matters for individuals, organisations and nations. Nat Hum Behav 4, 993–1003 (2020).