8 March 2019

On International Women’s Day, the ILO has published a disturbing report that finds “Work-related gender gaps have not seen any meaningful improvement for 20 years”. One of the key issues is the “imbalanced division of work within the household between men and women is one of the most resilient features of gender inequality. … [I]t is estimated that the gender gap in time spent in unpaid care work would not be closed until 2228; in other words, closing the gap would take 209 years.” The report says this trajectory can be averted if deliberate efforts to shift the caring burden are made, and there is evidence that paid paternity leave can have a lasting impact: “Research suggests a positive correlation between men’s take-up of paternity leave and their time spent in caring for their children even after the end of the entitlement, and also positive effects in increasing their daily share of household chores every day. In addition, mandatory paternity leave can also generate an increase in women’s wages. A Swedish study found that, for every month of leave taken by men in the first year of the child’s life, the woman’s long-term salary was 6.7 per cent higher.” Governments must look for opportunities to shift the burden of caring within the home, in order to eliminate gender gaps in the workplace.