Fact-checker: Is 56% of women’s labour unpaid?

Joeri Minnen 25 February 2020

Fact-checking by Oxfam and Knack

Of all the work done by Belgian women, 56 percent is unpaid. It’s about cleaning, cooking, taking care of the children, doing the dishes, and so on. For men, 36 percent of the working time is unpaid,’ said Maaike Vanmeerhaeghe in response to the Oxfam report ‘Time to care’. The figure comes from the Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum, which in turn used the ‘Harmonised European Time Survey for Belgium’. In her ‘Factchecker’ section, Knack checked whether this is indeed true and spoke to time sociologist Ignace Glorieux.

Are these figures correct?

Knack judged that the figures are indeed correct. They can be traced back to the accurately conducted Belgian and Flemish time studies of 2013. Ignace Glorieux explains: ‘For the Belgian time expenditure survey, 5435 respondents aged 12 and over recorded their time expenditure on one weekday and one weekend day. This shows that on average 68.2 percent of the work is unpaid for women and 45.7 percent for men’. The young and over-75s ensure that the percentage of unpaid work is higher than the figures in the report. A selection was applied and only the figures for the age category 15-64 years were presented. In 2013, the TOR research group also organised a time survey at the Flemish level, in which only adults were surveyed. To this end, 3260 Flemish people between the ages of 18 and 75 recorded their time expenditure for one week. At that time, it appeared that women on average performed 58 percent unpaid labour, as opposed to 40 percent among men’. This is even more in line with the figures in the Global Gender Gap Report’.

Evolution of unpaid labour inequality

According to Glorieux the figures do evolve towards more equality between men and women, but that evolution is very slow. And make no mistake: even a “guide country” like Sweden still has inequality in that area. In Sweden, 43.5 percent of women’s work is unpaid, compared to 34.4 percent of men’s work.

Moreover, the nature of unpaid work is also different for men and women. Men are more likely to do visible and enduring jobs that allow them to score. Cooking extensively on Sundays, painting a wall… …while women do more “invisible” and routine work, which only catches the eye when it doesn’t happen. Nobody applauds when a mother spreads her children’s sandwiches, while she does get crooked tins when she forgets the bread bin for once.

Want to know more?

Would you like to know more about the results of the Belgian time study? You can request the reports from hbits and the TOR Research Group of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Downloads: https://www.vub.be/TOR/factchecker-is-56-van-de-arbeid-die-vrouwen-leveren-onbetaald/

In short

Is the claim correct that ‘Is 56% of the work women do unpaid?’. Based on the time expenditure data, Ignace Glorieux supports this assertion.