When considering the time spent on domestic chores, total working hours of women are greater than those of men. In addition to working more, women are the majority in unpaid and low paid jobs. Data on Brazil

Why are women
so tired?

di Lygia Sabbag Fares, Ana Luíza Matos de Oliveira

Inequality in the distribution of total working time in Brazil is seldom addressed. In our analysis, we consider the time spent on paid work in the labor market (time spent on productive work) and also time spent on reproduction, that is, unpaid domestic work (time on reproductive work).

We believe that there are many inequalities in relation to working time.

  • The first is the inequality of working time, between employed and unemployed workers.
  • The second is between the distribution of working hours, the high number of overtime hours, flexible working hours, fixed-term contracts, part-time contracts, commissioned salaries, among other forms of flexible work that alter the duration of working time, even among those employed.
  • The third concerns gender issues: while men dedicate more hours to productive work, recognized and remunerated by capital, women play the role of reproductive workers, as we will briefly discuss here.

As for item iii, we consider that, in order to have visibility of the total working time, it is necessary to pay attention to other factors, for example, gender, since the responsibility for domestic / reproductive work - not recognized by society as work -, in a large extent, falls on women, even though they also perform paid work. Thus, the idea that women are responsible for domestic work because they do not work outside the household is mistaken: Brazilian women accumulate the function of workers inside and outside the home, resulting in a long total working day, longer than that of men.

The data for Brazil show that the men’s working day in his main job is longer than that of women’s, that is, they both work long hours, but men work even more. However, women, despite having shorter paid working hours on average than men, have added to their paid working hours the hours of unpaid domestic work (cooking, washing, ironing, cleaning the house and taking care of children and the elderly), which characterizes a double or triple burden: women spend twice as much time on household chores as men and this proportion has not changed significantly during the 2000s.

According to PNAD Contínua, in 2019, Brazilians (14 years old and over) spent weekly, on average, 16.8 hours per week to household chores or care work (21.4 hours for women and 11.0 hours for men). The gender gap has worsened, as the difference between the male and female averages increased from 9.9 to 10.4 in comparison to the period of 2016 to 2019. PNAD Contínua also shows that 85.7% (92.1% women and 78.6% men) of the population performed household chores, with a slight increase for men since 2018 (0.4 p.p) and that men with a college degree (85.7%) perform more household chores than men with very low or no formal education (74.1%). The data also shows regional disparities: in the Northeast 21 p.p. more women performed domestic work while in the South, the difference was 9.6 p.p. Regarding race, the proportion of white (91.5%), black (94.1%) or brown (92.3%) women is higher than that of men that declare the same (80.4%, 80.9% and 76.5%, respectively). Among household activities, the only one in which the male participation rate exceeds female is at small home repair: 58.1% for men and 30.6% for women. Regarding unpaid care work at home or at another household (relatives), women were responsible for 36.8% and men for 25.9 %.

One can also notice that the number of hours spent per week on domestic work has a negative correlation with income: the higher the income, the lower the number of average hours spent per week on domestic work, indicating the possibility of “outsourcing”. Low wages and fragile labor rights allow the hiring of domestic workers to carry out this work.

Therefore, if the time spent on domestic work is considered, the total working hours of women is greater than that of men in Brazil. And, in addition to the fact that they work more, the data show that the proportion of women is higher in low-paid and unpaid jobs.

Thus, the great social debts of the patriarchal capitalist society remain, and time-use inequality is one of them. It is important to say that domestic work, even though in theory it does not create a surplus in Marxist terms (it is not seen as “productive”), contributes to the development of capitalism in Brazil, because it enables the reproduction of the workforce at a low-cost. Thus, the main beneficiary of this unequal distribution of work, as well as the long hours worked by men and women, in productive or reproductive work, is capital.

It is necessary to reduce the total workload, with the assistance of public systems, without reducing wages and further damaging gender equality. It is also necessary to create awareness to men and women - since many of them do not know, minimize or underestimate the value imbued in their own reproductive work - of the importance of reproductive work and the obligation to share it equally between men and women.

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