Our experiences during childhood affect the rest of our lives, helping to determine who we are, what we want, and how we go about getting it. As grown-ups, we know this, and make an effort to interact with our kids accordingly. The problem is that we don’t always see what we’re doing — for example, the way we parcel out chores and allowances might be the start of our children’s experience with the gender pay gap. But around the world, the problem is often a lot more serious than unfair pocket money.
A new report from UNICEF shows that global gender inequality begins in childhood, with girls doing far more unpaid household labor than boys, and having less access to education as a result.
- Girls spend much more time doing chores than boys.
Girls between the ages of 5 and 14 spend 40 percent more time doing chores than boys their age. Globally, that breaks down to 160 million more hours per day of chores for girls than for boys.
These responsibilities interfere with girls’ ability to succeed because they have less time and energy to attend school, or to do schoolwork, than young men in their area or even often their family. Additionally, they are receiving a message about the value of their time and the roles they’ll be expected to fulfill as grown women, messages that have a real impact further down the road.
“By the time a woman earns her first dollar, her occupational choice is the culmination of years of education, guidance by mentors, expectations set by those who raised her, hiring practices of firms, and widespread norms and expectations about work-family balance held by employers, co-workers and society,” says a study by The Economic Policy Institute, which was recently referenced by The Washington Post. “In other words, even though women disproportionately enter lower-paid, female-dominated occupations, this decision is shaped by discrimination, societal norms and other forces beyond women’s control.”
- The discrepancy starts early and widens over time.
By the time girls are between the ages of 5 and 9, they are doing more chores than boys. During this stage, they’re spending 30 percent more time working around the house than the boys. By the time kids are between the ages of 10 and 14, girls are spending 50 percent more time on chores than the other gender. Globally, that adds up to 120 million more hours each and every day.
“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.”
- “Girls’ work” is less visible and less valued.
The report also notes that the chores girls do most often, like caring for younger children, cooking, and cleaning, are less visible than the work done by boys. In some areas, it’s more dangerous for girls to collect firewood, for example, than it is for boys, but that alone doesn’t account for the discrepancies. Young women, and also young men, receive powerful messages based on the work they’re asked to do as children and from the way in which they’re acknowledged for that contribution.
Be sure to visit unicef.org for more information about the organization and its work with children around the world.
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