How women's unpaid labour gives men time to work, play

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Director General Dr. Mac Donald Obudho. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Men are spending more time on paid employment compared to women as a new report reveals that women devote additional time on unpaid domestic labour.

The report by the government statistician shows that males aged 15 and above spend 100.2 minutes a day to produce goods for their own consumption while females spend 83.9 minutes for the same purpose.

The irony is that men still manage to spend more time on leisure activities such as socialising, sports and self-care compared to women.

According to the Kenya Time Use Report by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), men spend 252.3 minutes on employment and related activities compared to women’s 117.0 minutes.

The number of minutes on employment and related activities goes higher in urban areas with men still leading with 357.3 minutes compared to female 175.8 minutes.

“The amount of time spent in employment and related activities was consistently higher among men in all counties, with highest number of time spent on these activities in Nairobi City (399 minutes about seven hours),” the report released on October 18 says.

Production of goods

On production of goods for own use, men in the rural areas spend more time (141.1 minutes) compared to those in the urban areas who are only as handy as women in this category, spending 21.3 minutes.

Urban women spend 20.9 minutes on production of goods for own final use.

But it is in the domestic service category where the line is boldly drawn even as men in the urban centres spend more time doing domestic work for household and family members compared to their counterparts in the rural areas.

Urban men spend 55.5 minutes on unpaid domestic services compared to their rural counterparts who spend 46 minutes.

Rural women spend more time on unpaid domestic services (247.3 minutes) compared to their urban counterparts who spend 230.5 minutes.

The report compiled with support from World Bank, UN Women and Oxfam is the first one in the country to shed light on how Kenyans spend their time.

A key issue that came up during its launch is how important the unpaid domestic service to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

While these services are rendered disproportionately by women, it was noted that they play a significant role in the country’s economy but there is not yet a metric to measure its value to the GDP.

Even as the report presents men to be the ‘work hard play hard’ type of individuals, the role of women in making this happen, by taking up unpaid domestic work, is rarely recognised.

Yet these are the efforts that lead to overall output of the country’s economy.

“Findings show that time spent by men on employment and related activities was about twice as much time spent by women across other activities,” says the report, highlighting the unseen role of women in the economy.

“Unpaid domestic and unpaid caregiving services to the household and family were predominately done by women across all counties.”

According to KNBS Director General Macdonald Obudho, one of the missing links in calculation of GDP has been the role of unpaid services performed at household level.

These are chores that if someone else was to do, they would be paid for it.

Mr Obudho however noted that since this is the first time use report for the country, it presents a lot of questions that need further research to be understood particularly in the counties.

“These are some of the areas we need to look deeply to understand why they are behaving the way they do,” he said.

Culture and sports

One such area is the role religion plays for men, a factor pointed out by Economic Planning Principal Secretary James Muhati.

The report says that nationally, men spend more time in religious activities (103.2 minutes) compared to women (90.3 minutes).

They also spend more time on culture, leisure, mass media and sports practices (158.1 minutes) compared to women (118.8 minutes) and self-care and maintenance (710.0 minutes) against women 704.6 minutes).

An interesting fact is that men in the rural area spend more time on self-care and maintenance (718 minutes) compared to those in urban areas who spend 693.4 minutes.

“We cannot be quick to arrive on conclusions,” said Mr Muhati even as he noted that the country could likely be doing better economically if there was a metric on how to include unpaid domestic service for households to the calculation of GDP.