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If Women Ruled The World

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2004 8:53 pm    Post subject: If Women Ruled The World Reply with quote

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2004 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


By Don Morgenson

When couples are anticipating divorce or are in the lawyer’s office putting the final touches on the divorce settlement, questions are asked about the reasons for the dissolution of such an important relationship. Studies indicate the answers to such questions are often found in abusive domestic relations, which rank as the #1 reason for divorce. But the second ranked reason for marital failure is: “He simply did not help enough around the house. He did not help me with household chores and/or the children.”

While domestic abuse deserves the worldwide attention it demands, surely the second reason for difficulties must be discussed and not only husbands and fathers informed about the central importance of helping with work around the house. We must also inform the so–called “leaders of the G–8 nations” who periodically sit around the table in lush circumstances congratulating each other. They too must acknowledge the vital contribution women make through their unpaid devotion to house and home.

Peggy Kome, author of Somebody Has To Do It: Whose Work is Housework?, argues it is very difficult to understand why we deny or ignore these contributions. Economists consistently warn that the colossal market economy simply could not exist without the unacknowledged and seemingly invisible labour of women’s unpaid housework.

Statistics Canada estimates the value of women’s housework as equivalent to nearly 40 per cent of the G.D.P. ($255 billion) per year. Additionally, women do 2/3rds of the 25 billion hours of unpaid work all Canadians perform every year. When averaged, that commits men to 831 hours a year compared to a woman’s 1,483 hours annually.

The London School of Economics recently released a report stating that being female costs the average woman approximately half a million dollars over her lifetime in lost wages, missed benefits, etc. All of this while women, according to the United Nations, do 2/3rds of the work in the world, earn 5 per cent of the world’s income and own less than 1 per cent of the world’s real property!

And when both parents work circumstances do not seem to improve. Arlie Hochschild, author of The Second Shift, reports that most men (61 per cent) in dual–career households contribute less than 1/3rd of the effort required to complete all household tasks, including car repair, lawn work, laundry and sewing. Only 10 per cent of the men share these tasks equally with their partners and not a single man in Hochschild’s survey did more than 55 per cent of the work.

Another study reports that employed mothers averaged 87 hours per week of paid and unpaid work while comparable figures for men ranged from 17 to 30 hours a week LESS than employed mothers. Women work approximately 15 hours more each week than do men. Over a year, women work an extra month of 24–hour days; over a dozen years, women work an extra year of 24–hour days.

The United Nations estimates the value of women’s unpaid work at home at about $11 trillion annually. Clearly the free market economy worldwide rides quite happily on the backs of the many women of the world.

It is too late for the most recent summit of the Group of 8 to deal with such concerns, but in the very near future, women’s unpaid work and its implications for the economy must be on the agenda. If it were not so tragic it would be laughable to see the world’s fat cats (mostly
male, incidentally) sitting around a table discussing economic, trade, monetary and labour policies rarely reflecting on the contributions made by women. Indeed, one might argue the foundation of the world’s economy might stall or even crumble were women to go on strike.

Social justice dictates that we at least sing paeans of praise to the women of the world who have seen fit to dedicate themselves to their homes and their families or attempt the difficult balance between the demands of a career with the demands of being a mother and a wife. And given the implications of their work, policies worldwide should reflect their devotion and their sacrifices in terms of tax exemptions, basic wages for domestic work and child care, paid maternity leaves, etc.

Am I optimistic the G–8 leaders will acknowledge Cinderella’s contributions and develop policies reflecting such contributions? Not really…but we should make plenty of noise!
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