Indicator 42. Average number of hours spent on paid and unpaid work combined (total work burden), by sex

Rationale and Definition:

This indicator captures individuals’ work burden, both paid and unpaid. It follows the recommendations of the Stiglitz Commission (2007) and the minimum set of gender indicators proposed by the Inter-agency and Expert Group on Gender Statistics (IAEG-GS).1

Measuring unpaid work helps to expose the full range of possible economic contributions, including the home production of goods and services. It also exposes women’s disproportionate unpaid work burden. For example, in Nepal and Kenya when unpaid and paid work are combined, women work 1.4 hours for every hour worked by men.2  Time poverty is relevant for welfare and wellbeing analysis since it can reflect reduced leisure time (except if this is due to non-voluntary unemployment).3

Measuring unpaid work is also essential to ensure the effectiveness of women’s empowerment programs. The time spent by women and girls to collect water, for example, or on care activities can be significantly reduced by a gender impact analysis of public service provision and infrastructural development, such as electricity, roads, rural schools, or water.


By sex, age and urban/rural.

Comments and limitations:

Despite considerable advances in time use surveys over the past two decades, time use data is relatively limited. In a 2012 UNSD review of gender statistics, time use surveys were found in only 48% of respondent countries (approximately 60 countries). Substantial financial investments are therefore required to bolster the technical capacity of National Statistical Offices and to design universally applicable time use survey methods, see for example the work of the UN Trial International Classification of Activities for Time-Use Statistics (ICATUS).

Preliminary assessment of current data availability by Friends of the Chair:


Primary data source:

Household surveys.

Potential lead agency or agencies:


  1. UN Statistics Division (2013). Time Use Statistics to Measure Unpaid Work, Presentation to the Seminar on Measuring the Contribution of Men and Women to the Economy. UNSD: New York. See also UN Economic and Social Council (2012). Report of the Secretary General on Gender Statistics.

  2. ActionAid (2013). Making Care Visible: Women’s unpaid care work in Nepal, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya. Action Aid: London.

  3. OECD (2014). Time Use as a transformative indicator for gender equality in the post-2015 agenda. OECD Development Centre: Paris.