A new UNICEF report, released ahead of the International Day of the Girl, found that girls between the ages of 5 and 14 spend an average of 40 per cent more time on household chores than boys of the same age do. They spend 550 million hours a day, and 160 million more hours on unpaid household chores than boys do.
Girls between 5 and 9 years old spend 30 per cent more of their time, or 40 million more hours a day, on activities like cooking, cleaning and collecting water and firewood. Disparities widen as girls grow older. 5 to 9-year-olds spend an average of 4 hours per week on chores, while 10 to 15 year olds spend an average of 9 hours per week on household chores. Girls between 10-15 years spend 50 per cent more of their time on household chores than boys their age do.
Some regions are more unequal than others. In the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia regions, girls aged 5–14 spend nearly twice as many hours per week on household chores than boys.
The most common chore for girls is cooking, followed by shopping for the house, fetching firewood or water, washing clothes, and caring for other children.
“The overburden of unpaid household work begins in early childhood and intensifies as girls reach adolescence,” said Unicef’s Principal Gender Advisor Anju Malhotra in a press release. “As a result, girls sacrifice important opportunities to learn, grow, and just enjoy their childhood. This unequal distribution of labour among children also perpetuates gender stereotypes and the double-burden on women and girls across generations.”
Chores done by children in their own homes under supervision and in reasonable conditions is a normal part of family life, and not detrimental to health, argues the report.
What is detrimental is the gendered distribution of chores which can socialise girls into thinking that these domestic duties are primarily a woman’s job. This can narrow their ambitions.
The report says that investing in childcare and infrastructure to ease uneven burdens and supporting girls to stay in school and engage in sports, extracurricular and leisure activities is crucial for greater gender equality.
It is also very important to recognize and value time spent on unpaid household services. This is a target under Sustainable Development Goals on gender equality, according to the report.
Here are some other highlights from the report:
-32 million girls are out of school at the primary level and 29 million at the lower secondary level.
-Suicide is the leading cause of death among adolescent girls aged 15–19 globally, with the highest rates seen in South-East Asia.
-Worldwide, almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday.
-In three quarters of the low- and middle-income countries with available data, more than one in five adolescent girls have experienced violence at the hands of their partner in the past 12 months.