On Father’s Day, international development agency Oxfam called on men “to bridge the gap in household work,” which reportedly falls “disproportionately” on women.
A study done by the organization shows that more than half of women in several countries reported increases in unpaid care work during the coronavirus pandemic.
More than half of women in the Philippines, Kenya, United States, United Kingdom, and Canada are spending more hours on tasks such as cooking, washing, cleaning, and caring for children and family members since the pandemic began.
The report notes that 43 percent of women surveyed across five countries also reported feeling more anxious, depressed, isolated, overworked, or ill because they have to shoulder even more unpaid care work as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
“The disproportionate unpaid care work burdens that women face are driven by unwritten rules or shared beliefs about the ‘traditional’ role of women,” says the report.
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, Oxfam’s assessments show that women in the Philippines are twice as much more likely to shoulder household tasks, such as childcare and cooking.
Lot Felizco, country director of Oxfam in the Philippines, said the pandemic has not only spotlighted the importance of care work but also how care work that women do in households and communities “have been, for so long, largely undervalued by society.”
In the Philippines, the study shows that while time spent by both men and women increased during the pandemic, the majority of housework is still being provided by 84 percent of women.
The pandemic also worsens the care work burdens shouldered by solo parents, women from indigenous groups, and those enrolled in the government’s social protection program, with an average of more than five hours spent on housework.
The study also shows that the top tasks of women and men include washing clothes, cleaning the house, cooking, and obtaining water.
At least 17 percent of men and women in the Philippines were unable to do their paid work, while 22 percent were unable to look for work.
Jeanette Dulawan, Oxfam’s gender advisor in the Philippines, said the study shows that men can indeed contribute more toward unpaid care and domestic work.
“Men contributing more to domestic and care work during this crisis should be sustained as we transition to the ‘new normal.’ Care work must be more equitably distributed,” Dulawan said.
Before the pandemic, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies estimated Filipino women’s unpaid work as worth nearly 2 trillion pesos, or roughly 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
“The changes that are needed should not fall on households or women alone,” said Dulawan.
“Governments and the private sector have their roles to play in committing to accelerate men’s uptake of unpaid care work,” she said, adding that it can start with even just 50 minutes more care work per day.
The study on the impact of the pandemic on unpaid care work is part of the COVID-19 Rapid Gender Assessment, an inter-agency initiative of 21 agencies from the UN, international non-government organizations and civil society groups, including Oxfam Philippines.