Unpaid care work keeping Ugandan women poor

Ugandan women
Ugandan women

Unpaid care and domestic workloads that are often unevenly distributed is keeping Ugandan women in perpetual poverty across several generations, a new report notes.

On average, women are spending up to eight hours daily on domestic and unpaid care work compared with just four hours that men spend, the findings of the joint report, published by Oxfam-Uganda and Uganda Women’s Network (Uwonet) show.

Unpaid care work includes domestic tasks as well as care for people at home or in the community.

While domestic, national and international laws and policies acknowledge the existence of unpaid care and domestic work, this has not translated into the effective recognition, reduction and redistribution of this kind of work.

Unpaid care work is recognised as a women’s rights, economic and equality issue under the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

The Uwonet report, dubbed Gender Roles and the Care Economy in Ugandan Households: The case of Kaabong, Kabale and Kampala districts, shows that early socialisation and social norms have contributed to the uneven distribution of unpaid care and domestic work. This, it notes, has seen the biggest burden fall on women and girls.

According to the report, from childhood, girls spend about 4.8 hours a day on unpaid care and domestic work while boys spend 3.8 hours.

The care workload decreases for men as they get older, but increases for girls, leaving them with less time for leisure and school work.

As a result, women on average spend 32 hours weekly on unpaid care work and 21 hours weekly on unpaid production for home consumption, while men spend 20 and 10 hours respectively.
This leaves women with little opportunity to earn money from their labour, which then keeps them in poverty.

For example, 58.5 per cent of men interviewed from Kaabong district in northeastern Uganda said they never, as children, saw their father or any man prepare food. In Kabale, the percentage was 52.1 while in the capital city Kampala, it was 31.8 per cent.

“Overall, only 55.8 per cent of men in rural areas and 41.4 per cent in urban areas ever saw a man in the house they grew up in prepare food,” the report notes.

Uwonet executive director Rita Aciro said the lack of attention to the distribution of the care work burden has negative implications for the economy and widens the economic gender gap.

Ibrahim Kasirye, a development economist at the Economic Policy Research Institute said that economically, women in Uganda earn less than their male counterparts, with about 50 per cent employed in the lowest paying sectors of domestic work, agriculture and quarrying.

“This is not only unfair to the individual women, but also reflects badly on Uganda as a country that does not recognise the contribution these women make to the economy,” said Dr Kasirye.

The report recommends investments in health, education and agriculture in order to reduce these gaps. It also urges the government to invest in technologies that can help reduce women’s workload such as access to clean water.

Florence Nakiwala, the State Minister for Youth Affairs, said the government is investing in the water and energy sectors to help reduce the amount of time women spend on fetching water and cooking.