Research Says Girls Still Do More Household Work Than Boys

It starts in early childhood and gets much worse as we get older.
PHOTO: Nick Onken

If you’re like most girls, you probably have childhood memories of playing with Polly Pockets and doll houses, pretending to cook and clean, and nursing your “baby.” And while you probably had the time of your life back then, we need to address the fact that that kind of pretend-play ingrained in us stereotypical ideas of women, especially if you grew up believing that that’s all you were meant to do. What’s even worse is that millions of little girls around the world aren’t just playing around—this is their reality.

According to a UNICEF report, girls between five to 14 years old spend 40 percent more time on household chores than boys their age—time that could have been spent playing, studying, and developing crucial social skills.

Girls between five to nine years old are reported to be spending 30 percent more time—40 million hours—a day on household chores than boys their age; girls ten to 14 years old spend 50 percent more time—120 million more hours—each day.

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UNICEF Gender Advisor Anju Malhotra asserts, “The overburden of unpaid household work begins in early childhood and intensifies as girls reach adolescence. This unequal distribution of labor among children also perpetuates gender stereotypes and the double-burden on women and girls across generations.”

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Author Arlie Russell Hochschild wrote about this double-burden on women in The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home. Hochschild interviewed fifty couples to learn more about their apparent and overlooked practices and roles at home, and The Second Shift became a revolutionary book because it revealed that women still carried much of the household burdens even after working a full shift during the day. That kind of stress cultivated feelings of guilt and inadequacy in their marriage—something most of us can relate to because women today still feel the pressure to juggle and have it all.

For more information, read UNICEF’s full report on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to learn more about how we can continue breaking gender barriers and promoting women empowerment. 

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