Women, Burdened With Unpaid Labor, Bear Brunt of Global Inequality

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Because women tend to earn less than men, they have more of an economic incentive to give up their job and focus on work at home while the higher earner goes to work. But because they have so much to look after at home, they often can’t take on a higher-paid job that might require more commitment, creating a vicious cycle that traps women at the bottom of the economic pyramid, perpetuating the gender pay gap.

The solution lies in, at first, recognizing unpaid labor as work — or shifting the entrenched perception that unpaid work isn’t valuable, said Susan Himmelweit, emeritus professor of economics at the Open University in Britain, whose research has focused on the care economy.

The Oxfam report, which was created in partnership with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, estimates that the value of the billions of hours spent on unpaid care work is about $10.8 trillion a year, or between one-third and one-half of a country’s G.D.P., according to Himmelweit.

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