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Women, Burdened With Unpaid Labor, Bear Brunt of Global Inequality

The solution lies in, at first, recognizing unpaid labor as work — or shifting the entrenched perception that unpaid work isn’t valuable, said Susan Himmelweit, emeritus professor of economics at the Open University in Britain, whose research has focused on the care economy.

The Oxfam report, which was created in partnership with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, estimates that the value of the billions of hours spent on unpaid care work is about $10.8 trillion a year, or between one-third and one-half of a country’s G.D.P., according to Himmelweit.

Second, governments and policymakers should offer incentives to households to reduce and rebalance the burden of unpaid labor, which has been identified as a priority by Melinda Gates and the International Monetary Fund.

For developing countries, that involves investing in technologies that would free up large chunks of time. “Simple things like clean cookstoves, which cook faster and don’t require foraging for fuel, or water points that make it easier to get water, can really help,” Kripke said.

And in developed nations, that means family-friendly policies, like paid parental leave.

Not only will these efforts enable women to participate in the economy and, in turn, boost growth, but “people, especially women, will be happier,” Kripke said.

“We undervalue women’s choices and their happiness and even their health,” he added, “all of these things that, again, economists wouldn’t measure but are so important.”

Readers: How many hours per week of unpaid work would you estimate you do? How has this number risen or fallen over the course of your life? Write to us at inherwords@nytimes.com.

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