The Government Wants to Track Unpaid Household Labor

By: Anneken Tappe · March 25, 2024 · Reading Time: 2 minutes

Keeping the Home Running

Household tasks — from grocery shopping, to doing the laundry, to care work — are time-consuming, and in many American homes, they predominantly fall to women. And while the inequality in unpaid labor is well documented, it’s not recognized in a meaningful way. But this could be about to change.

The Labor Department, which collects all sorts of measurements on the U.S. labor force, including who works, and where, as well as how productive we are as a workforce, commissioned a report on “home production” in 2021 to get a better idea. This report just came out, with staggering findings like women performing nearly 80% of all unpaid household labor.

What Happens Next

The Labor Department will review the report and its methodology, in the hope to add it as a household production metric next year. It could change the way we look at household labor, which is often time consuming but not highly skilled, and increase our understanding of our very own economy.

It might not sound like a big deal, but it truly is. Government data is hugely important in driving policy, because it gives economists and lawmakers numbers to support their ideas and solutions. And it’s hard to make good policy for things that aren’t well represented in the data.

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