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Development Account Projects

Improving quantification of women's unpaid work in
support of poverty eradication policies


Analysing women's contributions to the economy and social protection through the unpaid work they perform is crucial both for the socio-economic development of countries and the development of gender equality policies. Division of labour along< gender lines — the main cause of women's lack of economic autonomy and their difficulty in gaining access to paid activities — is at the heart of gender inequality. Time-use surveys are a useful instrument for analysing work in the light of the links between the public and private spheres, and for studying the "social contract" governing day-to-day relations between men and women within the home and in society. This is why they have become a tool of great importance to implement the regional agenda on gender equality. Moreover, the surveys are useful in visualizing and quantifying the social and economic value of women's domestic and care work

At the Tenth Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, the ECLAC member States agreed to develop instruments, especially time-use surveys, for periodically measuring unpaid work performed by women and men in order to make such work visible and recognize its value, to incorporate their results into the System of National Accounts and to design economic and social policies accordingly. This agreement is reinforced by resolution 5 (IV) of the fourth meeting of the Statistical Conference of the Americas of ECLAC, where member States approved the creation of a working group on gender statistics, headed by Mexico, to encourage efforts to systematize national statistical information with a gender perspective and promote in all countries the implementation of the time-use survey or the inclusion in household surveys of a module to measure women's unpaid contributions.

In this context, the number of requests received by ECLAC for technical cooperation and training towards the design, implementation and analysis of time-use surveys has increased dramatically. In 2008, the DESA received requests for assistance from eight countries and territories (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela). Each one of these countries requested support at different stages of the process, depending on their respective statistical capacities. Whereas Cuba and Venezuela require a deepening of their knowledge and capacity, the requests filed by the Dominican Republic and Honduras are the result of technical missions recently carried out. Both Puerto Rico and Peru require assistance with the first evaluation of available data and assistance needs.

In many cases, countries are requesting training on the inclusion of gender mainstreaming and statistics, which implies the organization of national workshops. A regional workshop is expected to take place in the Dominican Republic in early 2009, including participants from the other two Spanish-speaking Caribbean country and territory (Cuba and Puerto Rico). This project will be executed by ECLAC, the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women and in close collaboration with the national statistical institutes and national mechanisms for the advancement of women of the selected countries.


To increase the capacity of selected national Governments to implement time-use surveys for the measurement of women's unpaid work.

Expected accomplishments:

  • National statistical offices of Latin America and the Caribbean will acquire basic knowledge and skills to implement time-use surveys to measure women's unpaid work
  • National mechanisms for the advancement of women and other governmental authorities will use the information gathered from time-use surveys in addressing key socio-economic issues related to gender equality, such as social security gaps, income gaps and care policies

Implementation status:

Since the start of implementation in 20111 the project has made a decisive impact on the quantification of women’s work in Latin America. The reach and the impact of project activities has been further strengthened due to synergies that have been sought with regular activities and other projects implemented by the Division for Gender Affairs, including the Observatory for Gender Equality of Latin America and the Caribbean which includes an indicator on time-use to measure the economic autonomy of women. Implementation of activities has also taken place within the framework of the Quito Consensus and the Brasilia Consensus mandated by the Member States of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean and the work of the Working Group on Gender Statistics of the Statistical Conference of the Americas (CEA in its Spanish acronym).

To date 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have undertaken efforts to measure time-use. These efforts have been considerably intensified as a result of the present project – ten of the 17 countries took efforts to measure time-use during the course of the project, and many of these countries have also taken further steps to quantify women’s unpaid work through satellite accounts. A key impact has been political with the adoption of legislation in three countries (Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) that for the first time legally mandates the national statistical offices to measure time-use and unpaid work as part of efforts to strengthen public policies on gender equality. In one more country (Costa Rica) new legislation has been proposed to quantify unpaid work which is currently under discussion in Parliament.

National capacities have been considerably strengthened through technical assistance (in three countries) and national workshops (eight workshops in six countries). The elearning course on Time-Use surveys which was offered by ECLAC for 8 weeks at the end of 2011 was attended virtually by 86 students, 72% (62) of which are government officials. The e-learning platform has proved to be a particularly innovative, cost- effective and successful way to strengthen national capacities. The response from both government and civil society was significantly higher than expected, and the evaluation of the course following its implementation showed a high satisfaction rate on behalf of course participants.

Exchange of practice and knowledge in the form of horizontal cooperation has been achieved through technical assistance and national workshops permitting countries to learn from each other and strengthening the creation of regional networks of experts in time-use surveys. A sub-regional seminar has been held for the Andean region to advance in the elaboration of satellite accounts of unpaid work. Furthermore the project has supported the participation of national experts in two key regional meetings: the International meeting on gender statistics in Aguascalientes (Mexico) and the International Meeting on Time-use Surveys in Mexico City – which for more than ten years have been providing a unique regional forum to exchange regional knowledge and experience on these issues.

One international expert meeting was held in November 2011, within the framework of the 46th Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean. The expert meeting focused on “Policies on time, Time for policies” and had an important political impact as several agreements of the Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference (no. 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 15, 23) refer to the formulation and implementation of policies related to care and unpaid work, the strengthening of the production, analysis and use of the time-use surveys through technical and political assistance from ECLAC and South-South Cooperation within the region, as well as the increased recognition of care issues through the implementation of care policies in Costa Rica, Uruguay, and the economic valuation of unpaid work in México, among others.

The project has also made a critical contribution to the generation of new knowledge on measuring unpaid work and its contribution to policies for women’s economic empowerment. Over the course of the project ten studies have been produced and one regional publication capturing the experiences of the countries participating in the project is currently being finalized for publication.