By Apoorva Sripathi
By now, we’re all tired of the whole “work-life balance” equation. And not to mention the number of celebrities who have rallied behind this cause, tech gurus who’ve written books and CEOs who tell us we really can’t have it all (30 Rock‘s Liz Lemon would have to disagree though).
Here comes a new study to remind us of the same: That women who work both at office and at home suffer the most. The study done by Huong Dinha, Lyndall Strazdinsb, and Jennifer Welsh of the Australian National University (ANU) finds that long workhours erode health and because for women time is of constraint (traditionally, extra demand placed on their time), they have “lower workhour-health thresholds”. The highlights of the study also mentions that current work hour regulations and expectations are disadvantaging women’s health.
To put this study in perspective, let’s look at an OECD study conducted in 2014 on unpaid care work. The key takeaways are that around the world, women spend two to 10 times more on unpaid care work than men and that this unequal distribution, the study says, is linked to discriminatory social institutions and stereotypes on gender roles. Broadly reports that the solution to this starts with men: That we bring down the number of hours men spend on work because otherwise we’re asking women to pick between health or equality (men can afford to work long hours since they only put in less than half the time that women do when it comes to domestic chores).
India is no exception this problem. In fact, a piece in the Washington Post argues that a reason for the low turnout for the #IWillGoOut march (when compared to the Women’s March on Washington) might because most women were at work. And after work, they had chores to finish at home. “My girlfriends, domestic help staff and I all belong different social and economic classes, but we are bound by an unshakeable truth: India’s feminism movement will fail us if it doesn’t address the problem of overworked women.”
Perhaps, overworked women is one common uniting theme for global feminism: In Japan, a 24-year-old committed suicide after she reportedly logged 105 overtime hours in one month. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe then launched a “work style reform” panel to make time off seem more attractive.
If you still need more convincing, look no further than the World Economic Forum’s report: That women, on an average, work 39 more days a year than men. In the section ‘Economic Participation and Opportunity’, the report finds that “women work three times as often as men as contributing family workers in family enterprises, and are almost twice more likely to work part-time”. How much do they earn? The same report says that women’s average earnings are “almost half those of men”, with “average global earned income for women and men estimated at $10,778 and $19,873, respectively”.
But unpaid work and care is really where our focus lies. Because even as more women enter the workforce (yay!), we’re still the primary caregivers, retaining responsibility for unpaid work, i.e. caregiving and household chores.
So, who run the world? Women, of course.