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Treasury mulls including unpaid domestic work in GDP calculation

 Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung'u. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The National Treasury is considering the inclusion of unpaid domestic work in the tabulation of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) as the government statistician unveiled a new report on how Kenyans spend their time.

The Kenya Time Use Report details how much time Kenyans spend on productive and unproductive activities, and is the first such report in Kenya.

According to the report compiled by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) in partnership with UN Women, Oxfam and World Bank, women spend more time on unpaid domestic work and care per day compared to women.

It says women spend four hours and 30 minutes on unpaid work compared to 54 minutes for men, based on the 2021 Kenya Continuous Household Survey.

The report also documents arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), led by Marsabit County, as the areas where women spend a larger portion of their time on unpaid domestic work and care.

In Marsabit County, women spend 30.2 per cent of their time on these activities followed by Wajir (26.8 per cent), Samburu (24.2 per cent), Mandera (23.8 per cent), Garissa (23.7 per cent) and Tana River (22.1 per cent).

The national average is 18.7 per cent. Kilifi is the county where women spend the least time on unpaid domestic work and care at 14.5 per cent.

In Uasin Gishu County, the figure is 14.7 per cent, 14.8 per cent in Kitui, 14.9 per cent in Nyamira and 16.0 per cent in Homabay.

Economic Planning Principal Secretary James Muhati described the report as a watershed moment for the country, adding that it brings forth the importance of unpaid domestic work.

He said the report would provide baseline information for the development of household satellite accounts, for the compilation of the contribution of household production to the country’s GDP that will later inform macro policies and strategies.

“This is in line with the other conversation on natural capital that is on course in terms of being measured within the GDP,” he said during the report's launch in Nairobi on Wednesday.

Mr Muhati said if unpaid domestic work and care is included in GDP calculation, the figures could be different.

“What this means is probably, there is a high chance or a major likelihood for that, that as a country we could be doing better but we are not able to measure that for recognition in other things in terms of our global relations,” he said.

KNBS Director General Macdonald Obudho said if someone else was to do the unpaid domestic work and care, they would have to be financially compensated.

“That is a component that has been missing in our calculation of our GDP,” he said

Muhati said the report is in line with Kenya Kwanza administration's goals, part of which includes recognising the work done by community health volunteers, the majority of whom are women and will now be getting a stipend for their work.

Speakers at the event emphasised how unpaid domestic work and care affects women disproportionately, which limits their participation in other key sectors of the economy.

“We cannot address the injustice of poverty and inequality without addressing gender inequality,” said Oxfam County Director Sebastian Tiah.

“Women work is work. As Kenya looks to be an upper middle-income country, I do not think we can ignore the participation of women.”

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