Women and unpaid household chores

          One of the main issues of gender inequality in Canada today is that many women  perform more unpaid work at home and assume more child-care responsibilities. A situation that may compound other economic disadvantages women face. In 1970, the Bird Commission on the status of women argued “If women are to attain equality there must be a change in the whole expectation of husband and wife. Marriage must be a partnership where each is free to pursue a career and is equally responsible for the home and family.”  Since women tend to be more saddled than men with added hours of unpaid labour performing home responsibilities, including caring for children and the aged, this leaves them with less time to work outside the home earning income. While the gap is gradually closing, women still appear more time-stressed than men. Indeed, statistics show women continue to spend on average well over an hour more per day than men on unpaid household chores.

 Average time in hours per day spent on paid and unpaid work activities, 1986 and 2005

Colin Lindsay, “Are women spending more time than men on unpaid domestic work in Canada?”

Average time in hours per day spent on unpaid work,

1986 and 2005

Colin Lindsay, “Are women spending more time then men on unpaid domestic work in Canada?”

          It has been suggested that because women still perform a disproportionate share of time on unpaid work related to family responsibilities, the percentage of women economically disadvantaged, or even living in poverty, has been climbing.  Economist Monica Townson argues this point in A Report Card on Women and Poverty, prepared for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Her premise is that women’s financial security may be undermined because they must combine paid work with unpaid family responsibilities. This especially hits women on low income salaries, but indeed impacts women on a more general level as well.  A statistical profile by the Women’s Issues Branch, Executive Council Office Province of New Brunswick, provides supportive data. While these statistics pertain to the province of New Brunswick,  considerable data exists reflecting similar patterns across the country.

Hours spent by gender on household chores, child care and care for seniors in New Brunswick.

One of the major problems of addressing unpaid work in the home is how to measure the market value of such labour. In her book, If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics, Marilyn Waring contends that the current methods of determining the value of labour, as conventional with the GDP, hinder monetary recognition of the extra hours women work at home related responsibilities. What is needed is an accepted form of measurement to determine the value of work, women, more than men, tend to perform at home, and to have it compensated for accordingly. Unfortunately, without such a system, much of the household work women perform goes unreported and unpaid. This, of course, not only leaves women with less money for daily purchases but also with less to invest as savings for retirement income.

Cody Seymour

Internet Resources:

Equality of Women in New Brunswick: A Statistical Profile Women’s Issues Branch, Executive Council Office, 2012

This statistical profile provides considerable data, both provincial (New Brunswick) and federal, that show the disproportionate time commitment women make over men in many areas of home related work commitments.

Lindsay, Colin. (2008) Are Women Spending More Time on Unpaid Domestic Work than Men in Canada General Social Survey: Matter of Fact No. 9 Statistics Canada-Catalogue 0n. 89-630-x

This survey holds that women devote substantially more time than men to  unpaid housework versus paid work.  The time devoted to these tasks by  both women and men has not changed significantly in the past twenty years.

Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada (1970)

Retrieved from www.swc.-cfc.gc.ca +

The major inquiry into the subject, it found women perform more home-related work than their male counterparts thereby disadvantaging them from earning income from  employed labour outside the home. Lack of public childcare programs in  Canada added to the problem many women face.

Townson, Monica. (2000, April) A Report Card on Women and Poverty. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Townson argues that women tend to perform more unpaid family responsibilities than men. While economically disadvantaging the extremely poor in particular, this also has a pervasive impact on women in general.

Waring, Marilyn .If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics, Harper Collins Publishers, San Francisco, Paperback Edition, 1990.

Waring considers that much of the labour women perform is domestic, including childcare, and is not monetarily compensated by society so its value is not factored into the country’s GNP.


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