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Counting Women’s Work in Vietnam

July 31, 2017

Unpaid care and domestic work are vital for family well-being, yet they are rarely valued or accounted for in the market economy. As women are the primary providers of care to children and the elderly, they carry most of the double burden that comes from combining this responsibility with economically productive work.

A May workshop in Hanoi highlighted the issue of the double burden of work in Vietnam, where it is particularly acute because of women’s high rate of participation in economic activities.

The workshop reported on IDRC-supported research on the role of unpaid and domestic work in the economy and its impact on women’s economic empowerment. Research in 10 countries estimates marketplace and household production by gender. These gender equality indicators are shedding light on girls' and women's economic lives and will help to develop policies that enhance women's well-being.

Research findings in Vietnam showed that

  • Unpaid care and household work represented 17 to 48 % of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015, depending on whether it was valued at minimum wage or lower. Women and girls perform 60% of this work.
  • Young people do a tremendous amount of unpaid care work at the ages when they are also investing heavily in their education. Young women are more burdened with responsibilities of care and housework than young men, but both groups are spending substantial amounts of time caring for others.
  • Girls and young women are spending less time in education than boys and young men, which could have negative impacts on gender equality in later life.
  • Women’s average wages for market work are much lower than men’s wages. When women do participate in market labour, they are more likely to be involved in insecure low-wage employment than men.

This type of evidence can assist the government of Vietnam in implementing its National Strategy for Gender Equality 2011-2020, which includes as one of its targets the need to reduce the time women spend on household duties.

Stephen McGurk, IDRC vice president

“The role of women in the labour force is key for the future of Vietnam,” said Stephen McGurk, IDRC vice president, Programs, who attended the Hanoi workshop. “The success of women’s entrepreneurship and economic participation, as well as national efforts to improve gender equality, is an example to other countries in the region.”

Globally, methodologies to count women’s work are essential to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

The Development Policy Research Unit at the University of Cape Town, funded by IDRC, leads this project with the University of California, Berkeley, funded by the Hewlett Foundation. The Institute of Labor Science and Social Affairs, in the Vietnamese Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, carried out the research in Vietnam.

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