Time use is an important measure of women and men’s activities in their productive, reproductive, and community roles. Time use can be measured through surveys which are carried out on the activities people perform during a given period of time (usually a day or a week). While time use surveys can and have been used for a wide variety of purposes, the most common reason for carrying out such surveys in developing countries is to provide better information about the work performed by men and women, and to highlight the time spent on unpaid activities, which are often invisible in ordinary census data. This unpaid work, which includes work for others, is considered a major contributing factor to gender inequality and women’s poverty (Mohammed 2009).
In spite of the changes that have occurred in women’s participation in the labor market, women continue to bear most of the responsibilities for the home: caring for children and other dependent household members, preparing meals and doing other housework. In all regions, women spend at least twice as much time as men on unpaid domestic work. When unpaid work is taken into account, women’s total work hours are longer than men’s in all regions (UN 2010).
In many ways, the 24 hour day time use analysis signaled the end of the Women-In-Development (WID) approach and the desire to “put” women in development as if they were not already involved, and the beginning of a gender approach that more systematically analyzed the differences between women’s and men’s lives and reality.
Sources: Mohammed, Margaret (2009) Making invisible work more visible; gender and time use surveys with a focus in the Pacific and unpaid care work. Suva, Fiji: United Nations Development Programme Pacific Centre; United Nations, The World’s Women 2010, Trends and Statistics, UN, ST/ESA/STAT/SER.K/19
Paid labor refers to time spent on productive activities for which the individual receives payment in exchange for labor
Unpaid labor refers to time spent on productive activities in which the individual does not receive payment. This category predominantly refers to household maintenance and care work, including care for children, disabled and elderly persons.
Non-productive activities refer to personal and recreational activities such as learning, leisure and personal hygiene. Activities falling in this category are not part of the economy.
Source: Gross, Jocelyn and Swirski, Barbara (2002). Time Use Surveys and Gender Equality.