How Much of the Labour in the World is Performed by Women?

Introduction

Most feminists have heard the soundbite “women are 50% of the population, do 66% of the work, receive 10% of the income and own less than 1% of property” before, but it’s rarely backed up by a citation. If a citation is provided, it just points to a repetition of the same assertion made at an earlier date, rather than actual research.

This “66%” number is even more suspect because it is always included alongside the false “less than 1% of property” statistic, and it’s an awfully round and convenient number, like all of the other numbers in the terrible little meme. 93.68% of statistics are made up on the spot, and this looks like one of them.

Here I’ll attempt to calculate the labour hours per week (paid and unpaid; domestic and non-domestic; child care and adult care) performed by women and men.

Bias

Please bear in mind that the conclusions here will probably understate the true burden of labour on women:

  • This data is based on self-reporting, and as such will likely underestimate the labour hours put in by women, and overrestimate the labour hours put in by men.
  • The most marginalised women, undocumented immigrants, trafficked women, women working in underground economies, and so on, are systematically excluded from these types of surveys.

The result for the semi-periphery and third world isn’t the most reliable of results, as the number of countries sampled is small.

Sources

This is based on time-use surveys from the OECD and from ActionAid. The spreadsheet I used is available here.

Explanation

  • The “F:M” column gives the ratio of the total amount of female labour to the total amount of male labour, and vise versa for the “M:F” column.
  • The “{F/M} {paid/unpaid}” columns give the number of minutes of labour per day by gender and type of work.

First world

CountryF:MM:FF PaidF UnpaidM PaidM Unpaid
Australia1.0390.963128.0303.5248.0167.6
Austria1.0530.949195.0265.9307.0130.6
Belgium1.0620.941125.0242.0202.0143.8
Canada1.0600.943201.0249.8268.0156.6
Denmark0.9861.014147.0241.1211.0182.3
Estonia1.1220.891198.0286.8264.0168.0
Finland1.0990.910159.0229.0199.0154.0
France1.1770.850116.0262.9173.0149.7
Germany1.0540.949134.0262.8222.0154.8
Hungary1.1350.881171.0268.1261.0126.1
Ireland1.0780.927142.0289.1280.0120.2
Italy1.2560.796135.0346.8268.0115.5
Japan1.1340.882178.0320.1375.064.3
Korea1.2040.831167.0226.1282.044.8
Netherlands1.0200.981146.0274.6279.0133.1
New Zealand1.0070.993160.0259.0279.0137.0
Norway1.1220.891185.0215.3251.0105.5
Poland1.1040.906136.0294.8234.0156.1
Portugal1.2780.782179.0326.1300.095.3
Slovenia1.1350.881169.0286.2236.0165.5
Spain1.0400.961195.0249.4280.0146.8
Sweden0.9651.036212.0183.6268.0142.5
UK1.1240.890169.0310.0259.0166.9
US1.0580.946192.0239.0253.0154.5
Average1.0960.916164.1268.0258.3136.7

Semi-periphery

CountryF:MM:FF PaidF UnpaidM PaidM Unpaid
Mexico1.1120.899161.0372.3368.0111.3
Turkey1.1140.89873.0353.9282.0101.0
China1.1580.863228.0233.0308.090.0
South Africa1.2890.776127.0256.2207.091.0
Average1.1680.859147.3303.9291.398.3

Third world

CountryF:MM:FF PaidF UnpaidM PaidM Unpaid
India1.3550.738149.0351.8318.051.4
Kenya1.3880.72082.0676.0148.0398.0
Nepal1.4450.69273.0628.0160.0325.0
Nigeria1.1410.87669.0762.080.0648.0
Uganda1.1160.896103.0589.0448.0172.0
Average1.2890.78495.2601.4230.8318.9

Analysis

Very briefly,

In the first world, Sweden and Denmark are obvious outliers. The data shows that, in those countries, women perform less labour than men. Unless patriarchy suddenly ended there and I just didn’t get the memo, I can fairly confidently speculate that this points to a systematic underreporting of female vs male labour accross all countries, like I predicted.

Nevertheless, the data still shows that the saying “women hold up half the sky” is incorrect. Women, in fact, hold up more than half the sky.

Of particular note is the triple burden. Not only do women work more hours, but they work more hours in unpaid jobs, and the hours they are paid for are paid at a lower wage than men. This, of course, has repercussions for women in the face of domestic violence (and misogyny as a whole) as, generally, there is a huge economic dependency on men.

Given that women perform the majority of the labour in the world, this points to the existence of a certain stratum of women and men – some of the ones who already economically benefit from the exploitation of the proletariat – who can also be said to economically benefit from patriarchy and the super-exploitation of women it results in, as well.