Counting Women’s Work as Political Leverage

The International Wages for Housework Campaign at an NGO Forum panel called upon delegates at the Fourth World Conference on Women to accept Platform language urging governments to measure and value women’s unwaged work. The provision suggests that governments include unwaged work in their national accounting, but does not go so far as to require inclusion of these accounts in the GNP.

According to campaign organizers, the measure is opposed by the European Union which fears that measuring women’s unwaged work will result in a demand for wages for housework. The developing nations, represented by the G-77, support valuing the unwaged work of women as a strategy to increase their countries GNP and to pay the Third World debt.

‘Quantification and valuing of women’s work is a key lever of power for women, according to the International Wages for Housework Campaign. Panelists restated International Labor Organization figures that women do 2/3 of the work of the world, but make only 5% of the world’s wages and hold only 1% of the assets.

Universal standards must be developed to include the wide range of work that women do without financial renumeration, said the panelists. Current methods for measuring women’s unwaged work are inconsistent, minimize the content of their work, and ignore women’s simultaneous responsibilities that if properly accounted would result in work days exceeding 24 hours. In addition, most strategies to calculate lost wages are embedded with the same gender bias found in the paid labor force.


Jennifer Jackman, FMF

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