Women doing four times as much unpaid work as men during lockdown, research finds

New research supported by UNDP also shows that employed men working from home did substantially more household work than before.

Posted August 6, 2020

Changes in workplace patterns during Covid-19 led to a shift in women’s burden of household and care work. Women shouldered most of the burden, doing around four times as much unpaid work as men. But employed men working from home did substantially more household work than before. The findings call for changes to workplace and social care policies to redistribute  unpaid care and domestic work, which is one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality (SDG 5.4).

6 August 2020, Istanbul and Ankara - A nation-wide survey conducted in Turkey in May showed that lockdown conditions increased the unpaid workload for men and women. School closures, intensified demands for household consumption items and domestic and care services triggered an unprecedented increase in the demand for household labour. Women shouldered most of this burden, doing nearly four times as much unpaid work as men.

Women’s total workload (paid and unpaid work combined) was also greater than that of men. For employed women, especially those who continue to work at the workplace (as ‘most essential’ workers), the total work time is longer than 10 hours per day.

But the survey also revealed that men’s unpaid work time rose substantially. Employed men who worked from home did five times more unpaid work than they did before the pandemic – a striking increase with potential to change the gendered distribution of unpaid work.

These and other survey findings on gender gaps in paid and unpaid work during COVID-19 in Turkey are captured in a UNDP research brief published today.

When it comes to paid work, nearly twice the number of men as women reported that their jobs were disrupted due to the pandemic, possibly due to the relatively higher concentration of women among essential workers. Women had less access than men to leave with pay but were nearly twice as likely to switch to working from home compared to men.

The pandemic survey was conducted on May 18-19 under a complete lockdown. Time-use questions were included in the regular life-styles survey conducted by the KONDA survey company, in an initiative led by two economists, İpek İlkkaracan from Istanbul Technical University and Emel Memiş from Ankara University. The survey covered 2407 people in all regions of Turkey and respondents answered questions about their time use on a typical weekday, when many workplaces and public spaces were closed.

“UNDP is proud to have collaborated with Konda, Prof İpek İlkkaracan of Istanbul Technical University and Associate Professor Emel Memiş of Ankara University to produce this nationwide pandemic survey in Turkey,” said Claudio Tomasi, UNDP Resident Representative in Turkey.   “The findings are evidence of the stark reality of the incremental burden of unpaid household and care work borne by women, in addition to the jobs they do. We are also seeing a significant increase in the amount of time spent by men on household and care work. This situation points to the urgent need for policy changes to bring about more equal sharing of unpaid household work between women and men. We must ramp up the provision of high-quality, accessible and affordable care services and promote work-life balance in the workplace to create resilient societies and families. The findings call for changes to workplace and social care policies to redistribute unpaid care and domestic work, as targeted by the Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality.”

“These findings also highlight the need for focused policy measures to protect employment and income, and provide compensatory payments, especially for the most vulnerable workers, such as informal wage workers, care and domestic workers who have neither a legal contract nor social security coverage,” said Seher Alacacı Arıner, Assistant Resident Representative (Programme) of UNDP in Turkey.

The research brief based on survey’s findings call for policy measures in the medium to long term to reduce and redistribute care work through a two-pronged approach.

Labour market regulation is essential, to bring in family-friendly policies and workplace practices that address the work-life balance needs of both women and men (such as care leave, telecommuting, flexible family-friendly work schedules and hours).

It is also key to expand access to quality care services for children, the elderly, ill and disabled, as well as education and health services. This includes upgrading service delivery systems to improve their resilience in the face of shocks such as the pandemic.

Implementing these policies requires the necessary fiscal allocations at local and national levels. Stimulatory spending should be designed with a gender-responsive budgeting approach and with an awareness of the crucial role of care work in ensuring a resilient recovery.

For more information: Faik Uyanık, UNDP in Turkey, faik.uyanik@undp.org