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About the Counting Women's Work Project

The National Transfer Accounts (NTA) project, an established research network with member teams in over 40 countries, has developed methodology to disaggregate national accounts by age and gender, allowing us to see how men, women, girls, and boys produce, consume, transfer and save economic resources.  In addition, the project has developed methodology to use time use data to estimate the same quantities for unpaid activities traditionally known as “women’s work”: cooking, cleaning, maintaining households, and caring for children and elders, and to conceptualise and estimate transfers of time as well as money. 

Combining estimates for the market and the household with the age dimension in a cross-national comparative context will bring women’s total economic contributions into view and reveal patterns of difference by gender.  This sets the terms of public discussion and policy debate around issues of gender and the economy such as:

  • If the government wanted to equalise human capital investment in boys and girls, how much would it cost?  Do girls bear unpaid housework and care burdens that complicate the simple equation that money spent on school and health produces more human capital investment?
  • What could the consequences be for women if their increasing labor force participation does not decrease their unpaid housework and care responsibilities? What changes by men would be needed to equalize the market and home production responsibilities?
  • In designing a public pension system, how would the system differ if work credits were given for years spent working in the household, in addition to years spent in market work?

For the Counting Women's Work project, we will support a group of low- and middle-income countries to apply the methodology through training, networking with other researchers, and technical support.  From these results, we will produce policy briefs, online reports, and academic research papers laying out the empirical reality and addressing relevant policy questions. 

Communication of our results to a broader public and policy audience is a key component of this project. The success of the NTA project can be seen in the many instances in which national and pan-national government and research organisations now consider age effects in economic analysis and policy development, and the extent to which they rely on NTA estimates to understand those impacts. The success of this project will be whether we can do the same for gender and unpaid household work.

The project is funded jointly by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the International Development Research Centre.