Women’s unpaid housework is the fourth largest economy in the world – it’s time we valued it

Women's unpaid work & economic value

According to Oxfam, the economic value of the unpaid housework done by women globally in 2019 was $10.9 trillion. This is more than the combined 2018 revenue of the world’s 50 largest companies. Or, put another way, bigger than the GDP of every country in the world except the US, China and India. That makes women’s unpaid work the fourth largest economy in the world. That is obviously significant at a global level. But what does that mean for your household, and the value of the housework you do? This is something households need to start considering. In this post we explain how you can find out what your housework is worth.

How much is housework worth?

The question of how to place a value on housework is not a new one. In the Oxfam study of the unpaid work done by women globally, the value of housework was calculated based on minimum wage. In countries that don’t have a minimum wage the study assumed a living wage. This is a simple way to assign value. And hard for anyone to argue that this value is unrealistically high, which may be part of why this approach was used. But it’s also flawed. The legally mandated minimum wage at best represents the minimum value we could ascribe to this work. This makes the estimate – if anything – conservative.

If we want to understand a more realistic cost, the question we should be asking is – how much would it cost if I wanted to pay someone to do the work for me? Would someone do it for minimum wage? Well, in many parts of the world the answer is no.

How much would I have to pay someone else?

Thanks to the growth of the gig-economy, we now have entire platforms devoted to enabling people to find someone to do just about anything for you. At a price. That price, as it turns out, is not minimum wage. In the UK, some jobs, like walking the dog, can cost between £25 and £50 for a 30-60 minute walk. That’s more than three times the national minimum wage of £8.72 per hour for the UK in 2020. A babysitter will typically cost between £10 and £15 per hour. And a cleaner around £15 per hour – nearly double minimum wage. Even an Uber ride will cost around £10 for a 10-15 minute drive. That’s far above the hourly minimum wage (though drivers don’t receive all of that pay directly).

Clearly a more realistic measure of the value of this work is what it would cost to pay someone else to do it. But going and finding those costs for all the unpaid tasks in your household is just creating more work. And who has time for that? That’s why at ThirdShift we have created a free calculator that does precisely that.

Understanding the value of your housework

If you want to understand more about your unpaid household work, you can start by taking the ThirdShift Quiz. It’s free and takes just 3 minutes to show you the hours, percentage share and economic value of your housework. We use the average economic replacement cost to give you a more realistic understanding of the value of your work. These values are currently available in GBP for the UK or USD based on US costs for most other locations. But more local costs will be available soon. Take the quiz now to start understanding the work you do, and change the conversation for how this work is managed in your household.

We’re also working on a longer term solution to help you create a more equal distribution of housework. We will soon be releasing the ThirdShift app, which helps you measure, manage and value your housework. Sign up here and we’ll notify you when it’s ready so you can be one of the first to start creating more equality in your home.

Ready to start creating equality in your home?

Knowledge is power – the first step to solving the problem is understanding it. Take the ThirdShift Quiz to start understanding what your work is worth.