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The Economic Cost of Devaluing “Women’s Work”

Source | LinkedIn | Kristalina GeorgievaKristalina Georgieva is an influencer | Managing Director at International Monetary Fund

As much as half of the world’s work is unpaid. And most of it is done by women.

This imbalance not only robs women of economic opportunities. It is also costly to society in the form of lower productivity and forgone economic growth. It follows that a fairer allocation of unpaid work would not only benefit women, but would also lead to more efficient work forces and stronger economies.

For these reasons, reducing gender imbalances in unpaid work is part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Examples of unpaid work include cooking, cleaning, fetching food or water, and caring for children and the elderly. These tasks are not counted as part of economic activity because they are difficult to measure based on values in the marketplace. Yet their economic value is substantial, with estimates ranging from 10 to 60 percent of GDP.

In our new study, we find that unpaid work declines as economic development increases particularly because there is less time spent on domestic chores. Social institutions and values can constrain the redistribution of unpaid work by preventing men from sharing the burden at home.

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