Melinda Gates starts her 2016 Gates Foundation letter with this triangle kitchen:
Telling her readers that the triangle kitchen increased a woman’s efficiency in the kitchen by saving her hundreds of steps, Ms. Gates quickly lets us know that women should not be the only ones walking in triangles. Because women everywhere do much more unpaid work, the cost of house work is a job, going to school, and doing tasks that are more highly valued.
Where are we going? Complementing Ms. Gates’s message, to giving home tasks more value.
How much do women do?
This OECD infographic shows women doing vastly more unpaid work than men in ten developed countries. The numbers indicate minutes per day:
“Time Spent in Unpaid Work and Leisure,”
What is the value of household production?
Next, I looked at a BEA (Bureau of Economic Analysis) report from the U.S. government, in which researchers estimated the value of household production. Their goal was to determine how much household production would increase the GDP. One of the three categories they quantified was “the production of non-market services” (cooking, child care, shopping and other typical house work). While they also looked at the return to consumer durable goods and government capital that relates to home production, they said that non-market services was far more than the other two categories.
For 1965, a GDP that included home production would have gone up by a whopping 39 percent and for 2010, 25.7 percent. In 2010, GDP would have increased by close to $4,000 billion if it had included home production:
Our Bottom Line: Quantifying Home Production
In The Price of Everything, NY Times journalist Eduardo Porter says that as women increasingly entered the labor force in the US, American society profoundly changed. One cause of the change was the new price of women’s labor. Once women worked outside the home, they became more “valuable” and so too did the opportunity cost of household production.
I wonder also if house work and the people who do it would become more valuable if it were quantified. In a 1995 BusinessWeek column, Nobel Laureate Gary Becker (1930-2014) suggests that by including house work in the GDP, it would more accurately reflect production and “raise the self-respect of women and men who stay at home to care for children and do other housework.”
Saying the washing and ironing was worth £97bn in 2012, the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics will in fact be calculating how much household production would have added to their GDP by creating a “satellite account.”