Income Distribution: The value of unpaid work
The estimated value of the 18 billion hours of unpaid work performed in 1992 was $228 billion. Women contributed 65% of this.
In 1992, total unpaid work in Australia was estimated to be worth $228 billion. This was equivalent to 58% of the value of the gross domestic product in 1992. Over the year, 18 billion hours of unpaid work were performed compared to 16 billion hours of paid work. Currently, unpaid work is excluded from Australia's system of national accounts but the ABS supports its inclusion in a system of satellite accounts (separate accounting statements that are consistent with the core national accounts).
Why measure unpaid work?
Unpaid work fulfils many important functions that directly affect well-being and quality of life in a household. Households generally need the input of both paid and unpaid work. Consequently, the way in which households fulfil these functions can lead to relative advantages and disadvantages. For example, if two similar households have the same income but one has only one member in paid work and the other has two, the first household has an economic and social advantage because a member is free to make the unpaid contribution to the household economy.
Who does unpaid work?
Overall, women did most of the unpaid work in Australia in 1992. Women spent, on average, 20% of their daily time doing unpaid household work, double the time men spent.
Women contributed 88% of the value of work done on laundry, ironing and clothes care, and 82% of the value of work done on house cleaning. Men, however, made the greatest contribution to the value of unpaid work done on home maintenance, improvement and car care; and gardening, lawn care and pool care (83% and 62% respectively).
Work is generally defined as activity that uses labour and other factors of production to produce goods and services for sale in the market. Unpaid work receives no payment as the majority of the services are not produced for the market. There are, therefore, no appropriate monetary prices to use in the valuation of these services. Accordingly, the 1993 System of National Accounts excludes the value of unpaid work from its definition of economic production as it aims to measure only market activity and activity for which satisfactory near market values exist.
A widely accepted principle for determining the scope of total unpaid work is the 'third person criterion'. That is, if an activity could be carried out by paying someone to perform the service, e.g cleaning or child care, then the activity can be classed as unpaid work.
Total unpaid work comprises unpaid household work (domestic activities, child care and purchasing goods and services) and volunteer and community work.
DISTRIBUTION OF TIME SPENT ON UNPAID HOUSEHOLD WORK, 1992
Source: Time Use Survey
Between 1984 and 1994 the proportion of women participating in the labour force has increased from 45% to 52% (see Work - national summary table). Over the same period the proportion of couples with dependent children and both partners in paid work has increased from 42% to 53% (see Family - National summary tables). In couple families where both partners are in paid work, women do less unpaid work than in couple families where only one partner is in paid work. Women who spend 40 hours a week in paid work do about five and a half hours a week less unpaid work than women not in paid work. This reduction is not because other household members increase their amount of unpaid work once a woman moves into the labour force. Therefore, either less unpaid work is being done or market substitutions have been made, for example, in the areas of child care, cleaning, ironing, meals out etc. Future Time Use Surveys will determine if the tendency for some households to replace tasks previously carried out as unpaid work with paid market replacements is increasing.
For more information on unpaid work see Australian Social Trends 1994, Unpaid household work.
|Food and drink preparation and clean up|
|Laundry, ironing and clothes care|
|Gardening, lawn care and pool care|
|Pet, animal care|
|Home maintenance, improvement and car care|
|Household paperwork etc.|
|Transport and associated travel|
|Purchasing and associated travel|
The value of unpaid work
Using the individual function replacement cost method, the total value of unpaid work was estimated to be $227.8 billion in 1992. Unpaid household work, worth $209.7 billion, accounted for most of the total value. Volunteer and community work made up the remaining $18.1 billion.
Married women contributed 49% of the estimated value of unpaid household work and married men contributed a further 25%. Men and women contributed almost equally to unpaid volunteer and community work, although women not in paid employment and men in paid employment made a marginally greater contribution.
|How can unpaid work be valued?|
The ABS has adopted individual function replacement cost as the method of estimating the total value of unpaid work in Australia. This method assigns values to the time spent on unpaid work according to what it would cost to pay someone else to do the job. For example, time spent on cleaning is valued using a rate of pay for commercial cleaning and time spent on child minding is valued according to the rate of pay for child care workers. This method assumes that household members and market replacements are equally productive.
Further estimates of the value of total unpaid work for Australia will be compiled when data from the proposed 1997 Time Use Survey become available.
ESTIMATED VALUE(a) OF UNPAID WORK, 1992
(a) Estimated using individual function replacement cost method.
Source: Unpaid Work and the Australian Economy
|Unpaid household work|
| Not married|
|Volunteer and community work|