You’re not imagining it: Women work more than men, most of it unpaid

The solution could be as simple as better workplace policies—for men and women.

You’re not imagining it: Women  work more than men, most of it unpaid

New research proves something that may not be totally surprising to many of us: Women work more than men, thanks largely to unpaid tasks assumed in addition to paid positions. In a typical day, that adds up to one more hour of effort from most women than men.


According to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap report, the average man works up to 7 hours and 47 minutes a day—with 6 hours and 17 minutes of that time earning pay. Women, on the other hand, work an average of 8 hours and 39 minutes each day with significantly more unpaid work in the mix.

“On average, men do 34 percent of the unpaid work that women do,” the report notes. “Research shows that this imbalance starts early, with girls spending 30 percent more of their time on unpaid work than boys.”

When those little girls grow up, the discrepancy between the hours of paid and unpaid work between men and women points to the penalty working women pay when we become mothers. As another recent study by the Australian National University found, many women are overworking themselves to the point of harming their health when unpaid hours are considered.

How can we start lightening women’s load?

The answer could lie in something as simple as offering longer parental leave. According to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap report, in countries where parental leave and high quality-childcare are available to both men and women, the gender gap narrows. Specifically, the difference between the paid and unpaid hours of work for men and women is greatest in Turkey and smallest in Sweden (where new dads have three months of paternity leave).

The report's authors suggest government policies can change the ingrained stereotypes that paint men as breadwinners and women as caregivers. We know that American dads work hard and still want to take on more of the childcare work through equitable parental leave, but the policies to support them aren’t quite there yet.

Until that changes, let’s appreciate the work women do both in and outside the home—because paid or unpaid, that extra hour really is work.

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