South Africa


Men should spend on average 50 minutes more a day on care and household duties, report finds

Men have spent more time on unpaid work in the home during the Covid-19 pandemic, but are still far behind women, a new report finds. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The State of the World’s Fathers 2021 report indicated that women across the globe do three to 10 times more unpaid care and domestic work than men.

First published by GroundUp.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, more men took part in domestic duties. But the world is still 92 years away from achieving equality in unpaid care work between men and women, according to the State of the World’s Fathers 2021 report.

Globally, women do three to 10 times more unpaid care and domestic work than men and also make up 70% of the paid, global care workforce. Covid-19 has thrown these care inequalities into the spotlight.

Some 56% of women and 51% of men from 47 countries, including South Africa, said the time they spent on unpaid care work had increased since the Covid-19 pandemic began, according to the report produced by gender equity organisation Promundo.

“There is no country in the world where women and men share unpaid care and domestic work equally,” the report said. “The 2019 State of the World’s Fathers report found that for men to do 50% of the unpaid care work, they would need to increase their time spent by an average of at least 50 minutes a day — although this varies greatly among countries and among households.”

However, the report said, men participated more in unpaid care during the pandemic. Surveys done with women and men suggest that as a result of the Covid-19 lockdowns, men have been carrying out more hands-on care work during the pandemic than at any time in recent history.

The study also found an alarming increase in men’s violence against women during Covid-19. Women with disabilities have been particularly at risk, according to the report. At the same time, services for survivors were being cut back.

The researchers say there is a danger that the pandemic “will reverse gains made after decades of struggle on women’s rights and gender equality and that as women lose their jobs in greater numbers than men, families will return to the traditional model of men as breadwinners and women as homemakers.”

They suggest several ways to increase men’s participation in care work:

  • Put in place national care policies and campaigns that recognise, reduce, and redistribute care work equally between men and women;
  • Provide equal, job-protected, fully paid parental leave for all parents as a national policy;
  • Design and expand social protection programmes to redistribute care equally between women and men, while keeping a focus on the needs and rights of women and girls;
  • Transform health sector institutions to promote fathers’ involvement from the prenatal period through birth and childhood and men’s involvement as caregivers;
  • Promote an ethic of male care in schools, media, and other key institutions in which social norms are created and reinforced;
  • Change workplace conditions, culture, and policies to support workers’ caregiving — and mandate those changes in national legislation; and
  • Hold male political leaders accountable for their support of care policies, while advocating for women’s equality in political leadership.

In South Africa, beyond maternity leave, ten days of paid parental leave is available to all parents regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The new Labour Laws Amendment Act also provides ten weeks of paid leave for all adoptive parents.

A study published by Sonke Gender Justice in South Africa in 2018, and mentioned in this report, found that almost 90% of men and 83% of women were personally in favour of expanded paid leave for fathers, but respondents were worried that private companies would not be supportive.

Here are some statistics from the global report:

  • Number of women of working age unavailable for paid employment due to childcare responsibilities: 606 million
  • Number of men of working age unavailable for paid employment due to childcare responsibilities: 41 million
  • Number of countries that guarantee paid parental leave for mothers, as of 2020: 115
  • Number of countries that guarantee paid parental leave for fathers, as of 2014: 71
  • Percentage gap in pension payments between women and men in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, often due to unpaid care: 26
  • Global percentage by which women’s pay is less than men’s (for the same work) for 2018-2019: 15.6. DM



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