Economy

With more childcare and domestic work, the pandemic poses a 'real danger' to women’s progress, UN finds

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Key Points
  • Women in a number of countries around the world have been spending around 31 hours on average a week on childcare amid the pandemic.
  • At the end of the second quarter of 2020, there were 1.7 times as many women as men outside the labor market.
  • Just 111 government measures internationally actually directly addressed unpaid care work.
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LONDON — Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, women have been bearing the brunt of extra childcare duties and unpaid domestic work, a study by the United Nations (UN) has found. 

Women in a number of countries around the world have been spending around 31 hours on average a week on childcare, the study by the UN's gender equality body, UN Women, found. 

This was an average 5.2 hours a week more than pre-pandemic time spent on childcare, and compared to 3.5 more hours men said they were now spending on childcare. 

The statistic came from research conducted by market research firm Ipsos for UN Women, polling 14,509 people aged 16-74 across 16 countries in October, as part of its brief "Whose time to care? Unpaid care and domestic work during Covid-19," published Wednesday. 

UN Women warned that there was a "real danger that the pandemic will erase the important but fragile progress that women have made over the past decades." 

The report highlighted that that while both men and women had seen their unpaid workload increase since the start of the pandemic, women were still doing the lion's share of such work. 

The wider brief consisted of data from 38 countries. It showed that two-fifths of women said they had been spending more time on unpaid domestic work, versus 54% of men and 28% of women said the intensity of that work had increased, compared to 16% of men.  

The UN found parents were also getting more help from their daughters than their sons around the house. 

The data showed that more women were leaving the workforce, and based on a sample of 55 countries, the UN found that at the end of the second quarter of 2020, there were 1.7 times as many women as men outside the labor market — 321 million women versus 182 million men. 

In addition, UN Women said that "while many governments have taken unprecedented measures to contain the economic and social fallout of the pandemic, the bulk of responses have been blind to women's needs." 

According to the "Global Covid-19 Gender Response Tracker" that UN Women developed with the UN Development Programme, 206 countries and territories had introduced a total of 1,813 measures to address the economic and social fallout of Covid-19. However, just 85 had undertaken measures to strengthen women's economic security, while only 60 had produced measures to address unpaid care. 

Just 111 measures actually directly addressed unpaid care work which equates to 8% of all social protection and labor market measures implemented in response to the pandemic.