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Women's Housework, Child Care Is Worth Trillions

Around the globe, it's actually worth more than what the top 50 companies made in 2018
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2020 10:55 AM CST

(Newser) – Women carry out a lot of unpaid jobs, from housework to child care and beyond. Just how unpaid is it? For International Women's Day, coming up Sunday, Gus Wezerek and Kristen R. Ghodsee looked at an Oxfam analysis that calculated how much women would have made had they been paid minimum wage for all the work they do that's typically "invisible" to economists. The results? Last year in the US, they would have earned $1.5 trillion, the authors write in the New York Times. Around the globe, they would have made $10.9 trillion—that's more than the world's 50 biggest companies made, put together, in 2018. They also note that "although the gender gap in unpaid labor has narrowed, women still perform a disproportionate amount of unpaid work—and on top of their full-time jobs."

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Some may write off this unpaid labor due to "traditional expectations that caring for children, the elderly, and the infirm should be done gratis within the family," the authors write, but one must only look to "the long Friday" to see how much of an impact women's largely silent work has. That was the day in 1975 that 90% of Icelandic women refused to do any housework or child care, including cooking, leading men to bring their kids to work and flood restaurants. A year after that, the country passed a bill guaranteeing equal pay for women, and Iceland today has one of the highest rates of female participation in the labor force. "What the example of Iceland shows us is that women provide a huge unacknowledged subsidy to the smooth functioning of our economies, which would grind to a halt if women stopped doing this work," the authors write. Read the full column here. (Read more gender gap stories.)

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