Earlier this week, Promundo released the latest edition of its State of the World’s Fathers, a globally recognized report that shows the structural differences between men and women. The report gathers information from 50,000 men and women in 27 countries every year, as well as aggregating data from relevant studies, to provide a glimpse of the current reality of gender and parenting equality across the world. Its big aim is to change the gender norms around parenting and ultimately help achieve gender equality in the unpaid and, often, invisible work that goes into running a family.
According to the report, today women and girls spend 40 percent more time on unpaid work than their male counterparts. If men took on just 50 minutes more of housework every day — and women did 50 minutes less — the scale would tip toward equality.
The difference between men and women in this realm is stark: Based on a 2012 study that took place over 15 years, women spent more than four hours a day on housework and child care. Meanwhile, men undertook just two and a half hours. According the report, in both paid and unpaid work, women work longer than men do every single day on a global scale. In fact, some 16.4 billion hours a day are spent on unpaid child care work. That’s the functional equivalent of 2 billion people laboring a full work day without pay. But, the report reminds us, simply shifting an hour of child care from moms to dads could raise wages for women and close the pay gap.
One reason why women spend so much more time on unpaid child care than men is that paternity leave is not a universal benefit. Less than half of the world’s countries offer paternity leave. Even when offered, however, it rarely lasts more than three weeks. The report also states that the majority of women want their husbands to take paternity leave, and that it would benefit both their physical and mental health.
Traditional attitudes about gender play a large role in the division of household labor, too. In a study of 23 countries across the world, most men and women still believe that the bulk of child-care work, such as changing diapers, giving baths, and feeding, are a mother’s responsibility.
The report also states that, unless significant change is made through social policy and gender norms, it will take 202 years for men and women to have pay equity. Over 23 years, the gap in unpaid work between men and women has closed by only seven minutes, and on a global scale, women earn 15 percent less than men on average.
The report makes it clear that men need to recognize the imbalances that exist and take measures to work toward parity. Equal distribution of household tasks is in everyone’s best interest. Another interesting finding from the report shows that when men take on a more equal share of the parenting duties, pay equality rises, women’s health increases, relationships are happier and healthier, children are happier and healthier, and the economy booms.
Now, 85 percent of fathers in a survey completed by Dove, cited in the report, said they want to be more involved in their child’s care, especially in the early weeks and months. But it’s not fair to ask them to do it alone. The report argues that laws and policies need to be enacted — like universal paternity leave — in order to close the gap between male and female caregivers. There also needs to be more funding in affordable child care so one parent does not need to stay home in order to care for their very young children. Social policies, if enacted in many countries, could help women return to the workforce sooner after having children and would help close the wage gap, which is linked to more gender and economic equality.
Of course, men everywhere need to do more with or without policy supports, which is why the report recommends they do one more hour of unpaid labor a day. That’s a change everyone can make. Unlike policy, there is no red tape there. That change can begin tomorrow.