Mother's Day is just around the corner and many people will mark the day by celebrating the invaluable role their mother plays in their lives. In many countries around the world, Mother's Day is also known as mum's one day off. However, while dad and the kids take care of breakfast in bed and domestic duties for the day, it's worth wondering just how much unpaid work is done by mum all year round. If someone else was paid to undertake those hours of cooking, cleaning and childcare, just how much would it cost?
The gender gap in unpaid work
A recent study of time spent in paid and unpaid work by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has found that in all of the 29 researched countries, women spend more time than men completing unpaid work, usually by a significant amount, whereas men spend more time undertaking paid worki.
When paid and unpaid work is combined, men and women in Australia spend an average of 476 minutes and 483 minutes (approximately 8 hours) working each day, respectivelyi. However, Australian men spend on average 172 minutes (2.9 hours) per day doing unpaid work like childcare, volunteering, cleaning and other domestic duties, while women spend over five hours a day doing these same tasksi.
If a man or woman is also a parent to children under the age of fifteen, the volume of time spent doing household work is even greater, and mothers pick up the bulk of the extra workii. Mothers in a two-parent household with children under the age of fifteen complete on average almost 53 hours of unpaid work per week, comprising domestic activities, childcare and purchasing activities like grocery shoppingii.
Time spent on childcare
Providing primary care for children constitutes a significant amount of the time spent by mothers doing unpaid work, particularly the care of young children. In families where the youngest child was under the age of four, 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) research has found that mothers spent more than 30 hours a week on childcare as a primary activityiii.
When childcare as a secondary activity (such as supervision of children while doing another household task) was also included in this data, the total amount of time spent on childcare jumped to over 80 hours a week. For mothers of kids aged between five and eleven, the number of hours per week spent on caring for children was 42 hours, while mums of older kids aged between twelve and fourteen spent a total of 24 hours a week on childcareiii.
What if that work was paid?
As previously discussed, when paid and unpaid work activities are combined, Australian men and women spend a similar average amount of time at work each day. However, the fact that Aussie mums spend so much more time on unpaid household tasks begs the question: if that work was paid, how much would mum earn?
If a third party was hired to do the 23 hours and 40 minutes of domestic activities, 22 hours and 17 minutes of childcare, and 6 hours and 47 minutes of purchasing activities undertaken by the average mum with kids under fifteen years old, the household budget could be unexpectedly stretched!
Paying for the services of a housekeeper and child care worker to undertake those hours of work would cost $1,020.72*, based on PayScale's median hourly rate of pay estimatesiv,v. For a 50 week salary, that'd add up to over $51,000, which is even more remarkable if one considers the fact that many mothers of children under the age of fifteen additionally complete full or part-time paid work, too.
However, American website salary.com estimated that if the unpaid work of mothers was condensed into an annual salary, stay-at-home mums would earn a huge US$113,568, with a working mum making on average US$67,436. In their calculations, salary.com included the hourly rates of occupations like cook, psychologist, van driver, and computer operator as well as roles like housekeeper and day care teachervi.
At the end of the day, it's difficult to put a dollar value on the work a mother does - most people know that their mum is truly priceless!
* Calculation based on (23.66 x $19.45) + (22.28 x $19.24) + (6.78 x $19.45) = $1020.72