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Ireland has third highest weekly hours of 'unpaid work' across EU

A new report found Irish adults spend an average of 16 hours per week caring and 14.5 hours on housework.

Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

IRELAND HAS THE third highest weekly hours of unpaid work for both men and women across the EU, a new report has found. 

It also found that 45% of women and 29% of men provide care for others on a daily basis. 

The report has been published by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

It examines Irish data collected over more than a decade to investigate unpaid work in the areas of childcare, care of older adults or those with a disability, and housework. It also looks at how people’s involvement has changed over time, and how Ireland compares to other EU Member States.

Adults in Ireland spend an average of 16 hours per week on caring and 14.5 hours on housework, it found. The time spent on care and housework combined is the third highest in the EU.

The report also found that 55% of those providing unpaid care on a daily basis in Ireland are in employment. 

It found that Ireland has the third highest weekly hours of unpaid work for both men and women across the EU. 

This reflects the relatively low State involvement in support for caring and sees Ireland more in line with southern and eastern European countries, rather than with Scandinavian and the western EU State, according to the report.

Gender balance

There is significant and persistent imbalance in Ireland between men and women when it comes to unpaid work and caring, the report outlines.

On average women spend double the time of men on caring and more than twice as much time on housework. The research found that women spent an average of 19.7 hours per week on housework and men spent an average of 9.2 hours per week on housework. 

Between 2007 and 2011 the time spent by men on care and housework rose, but this returned to 2007 levels in 2016, the report notes, suggesting this was a response to the economic shock of the recession rather than an underlying shift in behaviour.

The report suggests there is a need for changes in social and employment policies that support carers, facilitate the combination of care and employment and encourage greater male participation in care. 

It also suggests that there is a need to address the clear connection between caring responsibility and gender inequality in the labour market.

“Caring and other household work is vital for the well-being of individuals and society, but because this work is unpaid it is largely invisible and rarely measured,” the study’s lead author Helen Russell said.

“Quantifying the extent of care and unpaid work, as we have done in this study, is a first step in valuing these activities.”

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