April 18, 2016

Unpaid work in UK “worth £1 trillion a year”

The value of unpaid work in the UK is just over £1 trillion a year, or £38,162 per household, according to the country’s Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The calculations include unpaid activities carried out at home such as childcare, caring for adults, household chores, and volunteering, which could instead be contracted to the market.

Valued at £1.019 trillion in 2014, the total figure is the equivalent of just over 56% of the UK’s GDP. This has risen since 2005, when it was estimated to be 52.5% of GDP.

Just under a third of the total (31.5%) is accounted for by informal childcare, while “transport services”—such as driving to work or doing the school run—accounts for 23.1%.

Leslie Stratton has written for IZA World of Labor about the determinants of housework time. Stratton writes that substantial resources are devoted to household production in industrialized countries, and that improving efficiency in this area could have large economic effects. Noting that women typically “bear the brunt” for housework, she argues that: “Policies to reduce labor market discrimination and discourage gendered norms of behavior would further enhance efficiency, but any gender differences in housework time that reflect different preferences or abilities are appropriate.”

The ONS Household Satellite Accounts for 2005–2014 can be accessed here.

Related article:
The determinants of housework time by Leslie S. Stratton