Unpaid work

Subsistence production, unpaid care work and volunteer work

Forms of work framework

Unpaid work is an everyday feature of everyone’s life, in all households and societies. Its role in supporting the well-being of individuals, households and communities is indisputable. It can take the form of goods and services provided within households and families, or provided to others through volunteer work or other unpaid activities.

Despite this, unpaid work can remain invisible, both in policies and statistics. However, recognition of its importance and the need to understand its nature and role has been increasing. One reflection of this has been the inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals of a target to recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work (Target 5.4) under Goal 5 on Gender Equality. In setting this target, the 2030 Agenda aims at tackling persistent gender inequalities in paid and unpaid work, as a necessary foundation for inclusive growth and development.

This increase in demand for information on unpaid work was also a driver of key changes in statistical standards introduced at the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians in 2013. The newly adopted definition of work and different forms of work (both paid and unpaid) within a coherent framework enables a more meaningful analysis of participation in working activities and many related issues.

The different forms of work identified within the framework include employment, own-use production work (activities people do to produce goods and provide services for their own use) as well as other unpaid activities such as volunteer work and unpaid trainee work.

Another significant development is the recognition within the statistical standards that individuals can be engaged in multiple forms of work in a single period of time, for example caring for children, working in a paid job and/or doing voluntary work. When applied, the standards create the potential for a far more holistic view of people’s work, how work is allocated within households, and the interaction between labour market engagement and different types of working activities.

Featured publication

The report analyses the ways in which unpaid care work is recognized and organized, the extent and quality of care jobs and their impact on the well-being of individuals and society. A key focus of this report is the persistent gender inequalities in households and the labour market, which are inextricably linked with care work. 

The report contains a wealth of original data drawn from over 90 countries and details transformative policy measures in five main areas: care, macroeconomics, labour, social protection and migration. These data are not currently available in our databases.

How much time do women and men spend on unpaid care work?

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forthcoming

In 2014, the ILO partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Bank under the Women’s Work and Employment Partnership, supported by Data2X, with the overarching goal of addressing challenges in measuring work and employment to ensure that women are counted. The partnership supports research in two core areas: subsistence production and unpaid care work.

Project activities currently focus on designing a testing strategy for providing evidence on what works and for contributing to global work on Time-Use statistics under the leadership of the United Nations Statistics Division. 

 

 

In November 2017 ILO established a partnership with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme to advance survey methods for producing statistics on volunteer work. Volunteers contribute their time and skills to help others, through organizations such as NGOs, or directly in their communities. Between 2018 and 2021 the ILO and UNV will partner with interested national statistical offices to test a module on volunteer work suitable for attachment to national labour force surveys, release updated practical guidance, and support countries to include the module in their national LFS.