New report examines unpaid domestic work in the EU

A new report on gender equality in the EU has been published by the European Parliament's Policy Department Citizens' Rights and Constitutional Affairs, with work from researchers in Italy, France, Poland and the UK including PSI's Francesca Francavilla (right).

The study aimed to provide a methodology to analyse the size and value of unpaid family care work in Europe. The first objective was an analysis of unpaid family care work at the EU level based on harmonised European surveys. The second objective was a comparison between two EU Member States - Italy and Poland - whose time-use data contain additional detailed information on child and adult care. In both cases, the aim was to improve the indicators on unpaid family care work in order to have a reliable quantitative picture to use in discussions on this issue.

Unpaid family care work is defined as those caring activities mainly provided without any monetary return by members of a household to children and adults of the same household or to relatives living outside the household. A care activity is defined as productive if it can be delegated to another person. This is the so-called ‘third party’ criterion.

There are several reasons for studying unpaid family care work, each one connected to policy issues. The most relevant for the present study are:

  • Interrelation with labour-market work
    This is especially important for women. Women’s participation in the labour market is related to domestic work, fertility choices, childcare and elderly care tasks. The policy relevance of this aspect is, needless to say, enormous, ranging from labour-market policies to policies regarding the public provision of care services;
  • Measuring the contribution of care work to GDP
    For example, what would be the effect if unpaid domestic work were to be included in national accounts? What would this imply for economic growth and income distribution? Would women’s economic position be strengthened?
  • Tracking gender inequalities
    What are the effects of an unequal sharing of domestic care tasks between women and men?

In presenting facts and figures and reviewing the literature, the background questions of the study are:

  • Does unpaid family care work have a discouraging effect on participation in the labour market?
  • What are the channels through which this effect takes place, and in which countries?
  • What is the relation of unpaid family care work with the level of education, occupational segregation, gender discrimination and lack of resources for reconciling work with family life?

A general quantitative description of the phenomenon has shown that in the EU countries:

  • Time devoted to domestic work plus time spent in childcare exceeds, on average, time spent in the labour market;
  • Domestic work, childcare work and elderly care work are predominantly performed by women;
  • Gender gaps in domestic work, defined as the difference between mean male and female minutes per day spent in this activity, decrease as education increases;
  • Time spent in childcare work increases with education for both males and females;
  • Gender gaps in childcare increase with the level of education. This is due to the more-than-proportional increase with the level of education of childcare performed by women with respect to men.

The report, Women and Unpaid Family Care Work in the EU can be downloaded in pdf format here.