“The wage gap is narrow for young women, but there is a wage penalty for motherhood.” This is one key finding of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report on gender and employment. Although family policies and institutional factors also play a role in the discrepancy felt by women who have children, the gap is also due to women choosing to work part-time (or even not to work at all) to be able to fulfill not only the demands of her work but her family obligations as well.
The OECD survey revealed that while men spent more minutes in paid work per day, it was the women who did the larger share of unpaid work. This includes things like caring for the kids and doing household chores–and they continue to do so whether they have careers or are staying at home full-time. Catherine Rampell, writing in Economix for The New York Times, observes: “The biggest gender gaps in unpaid work, in fact, involve taking care of children: working mothers devote about 50 percent more time to child care than nonworking fathers do.” This translates to women spending more than two hours per day in unpaid work compared to men. What makes this situation even more skewed against women is that even in households where women are the ones working—doing paid work, that is—and the men aren’t, the latter still “do only as much housework as the women, and spend far less time in child care,” notes Rampell.
The choice to stay at home or pursue a career is often not entirely a personal decision. The OECD explains that it is often mothers who would rather stay at home if one wage is simply eaten up by childcare. This option is further advanced by existing institutions and norms: “Many systems still implicitly regard childrearing as a mother’s responsibility: everywhere women are doing more unpaid work than men, regardless of whether they have full-time jobs or not.” But even for women who decide to work part-time to be able to balance work and family life, this decision “frequently comes at a cost to their long-term career and earning prospects,” concludes the report.
NWOslave, one of Ms. Rampell’s readers, commented, however that the “hours used for unpaid work is extremely deceptive” and considers childcare to be a “passive” undertaking. This reader explains: “Eighty percent of unpaid work is passive. Waiting for the washer to wash, being present when a child sleeps or watches TV. Paid work on the other hand is active and 100% work, there’s no sitting around as time passes.”
Another reader, Lorie, meanwhile believes the reason why this disparity continues to proliferate is because “advertisements still show WOMEN doing all the housework. You will never see a man pushing a “Swifter” while holding a baby on his hip and simultaneously prepping dinner. As long as women are conditioned to cater to men, we will continue to do so. My solution? Just say NO.”