by Clarisse Baniqued and Annabs Sanchez

I’ve been thinking about the apocalypse lately. On how it won’t be brought upon by another great flood, an attack by a giant angry lizard, a slew of battle-ready robots, a takeover by vicious alien life, or a hellmouth in a high school.

No, it won’t be because of something as obvious as any of that. It will be because of something more monstrous, more ruthless, more unthinkable – it will be because of the unpaid work of women.

The United Nations says that women work longer hours than men—an average of 30 minutes a day longer in developed countries and 50 minutes in developing countries – when both paid and unpaid work are taken into consideration.

It’s evident that gender stereotypes are at the core of women bearing the burden of unpaid care work.

A 2015 report by McKinsey Global Institute estimates that “[I]n some regions, such as South Asia (including India) and MENA, women are estimated to undertake as much as 80 to 90 percent of unpaid care work.”

Spending three more hours a day in housework and up to ten times more in caring for children, the elderly, and the sick, on top of their work outside the home. Hours, that amount to an estimated $10 trillion a year (or roughly equivalent to 13 percent of the global GDP) – using conservative assumptions.

And with such astronomical numbers, it’s no surprise how many scholars believe, that, if all women stopped doing all their unpaid work such as housework and caregiving, the economy will collapse. And if that isn’t the modern day apocalypse, I’m not sure what is.

However, without diminishing importance of talking about the growing wage gap and women remaining economically subordinate to men, the conversation about women’s unpaid work shouldn’t be limited simply to an economic one.

We should shift the discussion to one that includes issues of social justice, health, and migrant domestic workers among others.

So don’t worry about pissed off, nuclearly modified Herculean reptiles or vampire hellmouths (there’s a feminist vampire slayer taking care of that), the apocalypse will come if the unpaid work that women do are left undervalued and unappreciated.

To learn more about this re-imagined apocalypse, I’m sharing a link list put together by Isis International intern, Clarisse Baniqued on women and unpaid work.


  1. DAWN’s Contribution on Social Equity, Gender Equality and Women’s Human Rights (February, 2014)

    The sexual division of labor, both paid and unpaid, is changing much too slowly. Since women still face the heaviest burden of unpaid care work in all societies, this violates women's rights and affects their wellbeing, and also prevents women from fully participating in the labor market. As a result, poverty remains deep and almost inevitable for millions of women and girls in the economic South.

  2. Long hours, informality still hound women workers in PH: ILO report
    by Buena Bernal (March, 2016)

    Women workers in the Philippines along with their foreign counterparts continue to struggle with long work hours including unpaid work, wage disparity, and high incidence of informality, according to a 2016 report by the International Labor Organization (ILO). “There is an expectation that, from a young age, women will perform the majority of unpaid housework and unpaid care work,” the report explains.

  3. Women’s work
    by Trini Leung (June, 2016)

    This article recommends two policies that will promote the equality of men and women and help crush economic inequality between the poor and the rich: adopting the idea of the living wage, and redistributing women’s care work. If these were implemented, we would most definitely reduce disparity between men and women’s work.

  4. Sweatshop wages and unpaid care work: the double burden on Asia's women as its economy booms
    by OXFAM (May, 2016)

    “Asia's economic success has been at the expense of poor women, who work long hours for low pay and do the majority of unpaid care work”, according to a new report by Oxfam today. Women are known to be the backbone of the economy yet I will never get why they still continue to receive little support.

  5. Women's paid and unpaid work, and the colonial hangover
    by Dawn Foster

    In Thomas More’s Utopia, on who carries out the back-breaking, menial work: “Another sort of slave are the poor of the neighboring countries, who offer of their own accord to come and serve them: they treat these better, and use them in all other respects as well as their own countrymen, except their imposing more labor upon them, which is no hard task to those that have been accustomed to it.” This illustrates the colonial hangover in our attitude towards care and “drudgery”.

  6. Unpaid care work
    by Zeenat Hisam (June, 2016)

    In 2008 British economist and sociologist, Diane Elson, suggested ‘the 3 Rs’ — recognize, reduce and redistribute — framework to address issues of unpaid care work. Another milestone has been the UN’s Special Report on Extreme Poverty 2013, which positions unpaid care work as a major human rights issue and notes that “failure of states to adequately provide, fund, support and regulate care contradicts their human rights obligations.” The state stands indicted of this issue and has a central role to play in its remedy. Our government needs to recognise unpaid work.

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