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Reconciliation of work and family life

Modified on 2015/05/22 09:54 by Sean Zheng Paths: Read in Order Categorized as Chapter 2 - Work
Table II.9

From gender issues to gender statistics on reconciliation of work and family life: illustrative examples


Policy-relevant questions Data needed Sources of data
Do women and men spend the same amount of time caring for children? Is the total time spent on housework the same for women and for men? Time use by type of activity within and outside the System of National Accounts production boundary by sex and detailed activity. Time-use surveys.
Time-use module in household surveys, such as labour force surveys and living standards surveys.
Is it the man or the woman who is working part-time or not at all when the couple’s children are young? Employment status by sex and number of hours worked for both partners by number of children below a certain age. Labour force survey, living standards surveys and other multipurpose surveys.
What benefits are provided for pregnant women? If granted, what is the length of paternity leave and what are the related benefits? Qualitative information. Legislative and administrative records.
Are affordable childcare services available? Subjective assessment of availability of affordable formal childcare services in the community.

Enrolment in pre-primary education.
Community surveys.
Household surveys.


School administrative records.

  • + Gender issues
    • Women and men have different family constraints when it comes to participating in the labour market. Women tend to temporarily withdraw from the labour force and to seek shorter hours or other flexible working arrangements during childbearing and the first years of life of their children. In some countries, women’s participation in the labour market is subject to approval from male family members. In addition, the hiring of women in certain jobs is sometimes denied on the basis of their pregnancy or maternity leave (ILO, 2011). Furthermore, although many countries have policies on employment protection during pregnancy, childbirth and maternity leave, women working in atypical forms of work are not usually covered. Maternity leave, while widely granted across countries, is often inadequate in terms of length and pay. The proportion of countries meeting ILO standards related to maternity benefits is much lower in the less developed regions than in the more developed regions. Paternity leave has become more common only recently and only in some countries in the more developed regions.

      Balancing work and family is particularly challenging for employed parents with young children. Childcare services may be unavailable or expensive. When family-friendly working arrangements such as flexible hours, part-time work, job-sharing and working from home are not available, one member of the couple, usually the woman, may be forced to stay out of employment.

      Women are the primary caretakers of the family (United Nations, 2010). Caring for children and other dependent household members, preparing meals, cleaning and repairing are tasks disproportionately carried out by women. In many countries, more than half of women’s total work time is spent on unpaid domestic work. When time used for paid employment and unpaid domestic work is added up, women work longer hours than men. Women’s increased participation in paid employment has not been accompanied by an increase in men’s participation in unpaid domestic work. However, the sharing of domestic tasks between the sexes is becoming more equitable in some countries in the most developed regions (United Nations, 2010).

  • + Data needed
    • Several types of data are needed to capture reconciliation of work and family life. They are:

      (a) Time use by type of activity within and outside the SNA production boundary by detailed activity, sex, age and employment status;

      (b) Total employment and employment in flexible working arrangements, such as flexible hours, part-time work, job-sharing and working from home, by sex and age, further disaggregated by individual and household characteristics;

      (c) Availability of formal childcare services;

      (d) Enrolment in pre-primary education;

      (e) Qualitative information on the length and related benefits of maternity and paternity leave.

  • + List II.9

    Examples of indicators derived from gender statistics on reconciliation of work and family life
    • Average number of hours spent on unpaid domestic work by sex

      Average number of hours spent on paid and unpaid work combined (total work burden) by sex

      Employment rate of persons aged 25 to 49 with a child under the age of 3 living in the household and with no children living in the household by sex

      Proportion of couples with children under the age of 3 where the woman is not working and the man is working full-time

      Proportion of the employed population working part-time by sex

      Enrolment in pre-primary education


  • + Sources of data
    • Time-use surveys provide data on time-use allocation for all activities, including paid and unpaid work, along with the contextual information necessary to distinguishing between paid and various types of unpaid activities and background information at the individual and household levels. These data are input for (a) identifying time-use patterns; (b) measuring and valuing unpaid domestic and volunteer work; and (c) improving estimates of standard labour-force statistics, including time spent on informal sector activities and unpaid productive activities (United Nations, 2005).

      Modules on time-use may be attached to labour force surveys, living conditions surveys or other multipurpose household surveys. Most often, these modules involve a set of questions targeted to certain activities of concern, for example, time allocated to a specific list of unpaid work activities (such as water collection) or time allocated to a specific list of unpaid domestic chores (such as caring for ill persons, cooking and preparing meals and carrying out small house repairs).

      Labour force surveys or multipurpose surveys are an important source of statistics on work-family balance because they collect, at the same time, information related to a person’s job and information related to that person’s family and household. In terms of the person’s job, in addition to employment and status in employment, important information refers to the number of hours worked, the schedule of work and the place of work. Individual and household characteristics of interest include marital status, employment status of the partner, presence in the household of preschool children or other dependants in need of care and availability of childcare services.

  • + Conceptual and measurement issues
    • Time-use statistics should allow for the measurement of unpaid housework for women and for men. In that regard, there should be a distinction between (a) work activities that are within the general production boundary of the System of National Accounts but beyond its operational production boundary and therefore not counted within the labour force, such as cleaning, maintaining and repairing, preparing food and caring for children and older people; (b) work activities that are within the operational production boundary of the SNA but not remunerated, such as producing goods for own final use, including growing or gathering field crops, or fetching water and firewood; and (c) work activities that are within the operational production boundary of the SNA and remunerated, such as formal employment in producing goods and services that are supplied to other units. The separation between these types of activity is possible only when additional contextual information is collected through time-use surveys. This information refers to whether the activities were paid or unpaid and for whom the work was performed (United Nations, 2005).

      Specific types of activity, often related to unpaid work and often performed by women, can be identified only when all simultaneous activities are recorded. When estimates of time use are based only on primary activities, many activities, such as caring for children or ill or older persons, are clearly underestimated. These “missing” activities would typically be reported as secondary or simultaneous activities.

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