EVALUATION OF UNPAID WORK

Women's Action Alliance believes that anomalies exist in the way that productivity is measured in the Australian economy. In particular, we believe there is an artificial division between "work" (in the paid workforce) and "non-work" (in the home and community), which is based only on whether payment is made. One result of this outlook is the low social status of work performed in the home and the role of the homemaker.

However, housekeeping is productive, indeed crucial work, and needs to be recognised as part of the economy. Families are producers, not just consumers. If wages are not paid, it is necessary to impute an economic value to this work.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measures the annual production of wealth in the economy which is paid for. In Australia in 1986-87 this was $396,000 million. Various studies regarding the value of unpaid work have estimated the increase to the GDP to be 52 per cent to 69 per cent depending on the valuation method used. The most recent figures available from the ABS 1992 study indicate that unpaid household work in Australia was valued at $227,800 million or 58 per cent of the GDP when measured by replacement cost ie the value according to the cost of hiring the market replacement for each function.

Demonstrating its economic value to the community is one way of raising the status of housework work. We believe the Government should publish a regular measurement of its value to the economy, undertaken by the Australia Bureau of Statistics. Such an estimate would measure the economic activities taking place in a household which can be valued in terms of money, and which are capable of being done by a third party. (Indeed, the same work performed by a third party for payment would be included in the GDP).

The concept of evaluating unpaid work was one of the main objectives of the World Plan of Action of the U.N. Decade for Women, adopted in 1975. Of the 14 points to be met by 1980, Point 10 said:

Recognition of the economic value of womenís work in the home, in food production, and in other non-remunerated activities.

The Progamme of Action adopted in Copenhagen, July 1980, includes Point 95 (part only):

A system should be devised to place a monetary value on unpaid work to facilitate its reflection in the Gross National Product.

An Australian initiative in establishing a regularly published figure for the value of unpaid domestic work is in conformity with the views of the U.N. Mid Decade for Womenís Conference and with action taking place in other countries. It is also an opportunity to develop such a measure in a highly developed industrial country.

The publication of such an estimate in Australia on a regular basis form an official source has additional advantages: