Unpaid care and domestic work – specifically cooking, cleaning, and shopping for the family – are taking up the largest share of respondents’ days during the COVID-19 pandemic, reveals new poll on unpaid care and domestic work in the United States, launched today by Oxfam and Promundo.
COVID-19 has brought an unprecedented crisis of care in the United States, with a particular workload being taken on by women and Black, Latinx, and Asian individuals, reveals a new research report based on a recent public opinion poll, Caring Under COVID-19: How the Pandemic Is – and Is Not – Changing Unpaid Care and Domestic Work Responsibilities in the United States, released today by Promundo and Oxfam, as an initiative of MenCare: A Global Fatherhood Campaign.
COVID-19 has led to an increase – often of many hours per day – in unpaid care and domestic work demands for Americans according to the poll data from likely voters in the United States: 59% of respondents say that their daily house and care work has increased as a result of COVID-19 and social distancing; the increases are most pronounced in families with both child and elderly dependents in the home.
People of color – who have been particularly hard hit by the impacts of COVID-19 – report taking on care at even higher rates: Whereas 57% of White respondents say that their daily domestic and care work has increased, this rate is higher among Black or African American respondents (71%), Hispanic or Latino/a respondents (74%), and Asian respondents (79%).
Across all respondents, the fact of who does the majority of this work – women – remains steadfast. Respondents agree that unpaid care and domestic work tasks are primarily taken on by women. Men may also be overestimating their total contribution to this work, for example: Two-thirds (66%) of men report that they are cooking and cleaning as much as or more than women are, but only one-third (35%) of women agree.
Unpaid care and domestic work – specifically preparing meals and cooking; cleaning, sweeping, or disinfecting; and shopping for food, medicines, fuel, or other goods – are taking up the largest share of respondents’ days during the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 30% of men and 31% of women currently employed full- or part-time say that doing paid work is among the three most time-consuming tasks in their lives during COVID-19. Caring for sick family or community members was a rare choice for White respondents (2%), while at least 10% of Black, Latinx, and Asian, and 50% of American Indian or Alaska Native respondents report this task taking up a large share of their time, once again highlighting the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on racial minorities.
“It’s time for a dramatic shift in who does unpaid care and domestic work, as well as in how the government supports parents and caregivers,” says Aapta Garg, Senior Program Officer, Promundo and MenCare Co-Coordinator, “We need men to take on their equal share of care work, and we need supportive policies for all parents and caregivers, particularly those who have been most impacted by COVID-19, including the Black community, the Latinx community, single parents, essential workers, low-income families – and those at the intersections.”
Concerning data shows that the pandemic is taking a toll on the mental health and well-being of the country, especially women. Half of women (49%) report feeling more anxious or stressed now than before the pandemic and lockdown; 41% of men agree. Furthermore, among female respondents, almost one-third report that “getting sufficient rest/sleep/time for self-care” is one of the top three things they’ve had to give up, a sentiment shared by 27% of men.
“We cannot continue to sacrifice the livelihoods, health, and well-being of so many when clear and proven policy options exist to provide the necessary support,” said Mara Bolis, Associate Director, Women's Economic Rights at Oxfam America; policies, women’s economic roles, gender and race disparities. “This means focusing our efforts on the people and communities most affected by the crisis.The work of caring needs to be better valued, paid, and supported.”
Women are more likely than men to support the progressive policy ideas proposed in the survey. Because of persistent patterns of inequality in care and domestic work – both paid and unpaid – women may be more attuned to the true volume of care and domestic work and the shape of inequality in their homes and in society, and therefore the need for urgent change. The survey finds that Black women in particular have progressive views in favor of policies such as no-cost, high-quality childcare provided by the government or companies, and lower-income women form a great deal of the support for Medicare for All and equal pay for equal work.
The report calls for 1) Equal, fully paid, non-transferable parental leave for all parents; 2) Access to paid sick and family and medical leave for all; 3) Increased, fully-paid leave; 4) Support for existing childcare infrastructure; 5) The challenging of harmful norms and sexist beliefs; 6) Flexibility in working hours and conditions; and 7) Social protection programs to support caregivers. The report’s platform for US advocacy and action was developed in consultation with PL+US (Paid Leave for the United States), the national campaign to win paid family and medical leave for all working people in the US.
Oxfam International is also releasing data from similar polls in four other countries: UK, Canada, Philippines, and Kenya as part of the #HowICare Project.
Access the full report: www.men-care.org/HowICare-US
Learn more about the #HowICare Campaign: bit.ly/HowICare
Access and download graphics: bit.ly/HowICare_SocialToolkit
Alexa Hassink, Director of Marketing & Communications, Promundo-US ([email protected] I 302-229-8241)
Emily Bhatti, Senior Press Officer, Oxfam America
([email protected] | 508-868-6162)
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- Oxfam America and Promundo-US commissioned the polling firm Data for Progress to conduct an online and phone survey of 1,743 respondents. The poll took place in May 2020 and included 927 women and 816 men aged 18 to 80.
- The poll identifies changes to overall workload, household care arrangements and responsibilities, associated stresses as well as US public opinion on care work-related policies in the context of COVID-19.
- The sample was designed to include multiple kinds of households, including households with both female and male adults (73% of the sample, weighted), households with only female adults (16%), and households with only male adults (11%). Ninety-one% of respondents defined themselves as heterosexual, with the rest affirming another sexual orientation. Regarding race and ethnicity, 77% of respondents identified themselves as White, 10% as Black or African American, 6% as Hispanic or Latino/a, 3% as Asian, 3% as American Indian or Alaska Native, and 1% as a different identity.
- In line with the expertise of Data for Progress, this sample was weighted to be representative of likely voters in the United States based on age, gender, education, urbanicity, race/ethnicity, income, and voting history for all analyses presented in this report. Additional methodological details are available upon request.
- This study is a component of a broader initiative known as the #HowICare project, which includes a US and global campaign. Learn more about the #HowICare Campaign: bit.ly/HowICare
- Oxfam International is also releasing data from polls in 4 other countries, UK, Canada, Philippines and Kenya for a total survey of 6,385 women and men globally with very similar findings.
- The lowest-income respondents (53%) were the most likely to report having been laid off, been temporarily furloughed, or had their working hours reduced. By contrast, higher-income respondents (76%) are much more likely than lower-income (40%) and middle-income (49%) respondents to be able to work from home for pay during COVID-19.
- Employed men (62%) were also more likely to report currently being able to work from home for pay than employed women (47%). White respondents are also much more likely to be able to work from home than Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino/a respondents.
- In terms of the magnitude of observed increase in this work, some 26% of women and 32% of men said their household’s daily domestic and care work has gone up by at least three hours. An increase of three or more hours in daily domestic and care work demands is sure to have drastic implications, as the rest of this report will explore.
- Nearly one in five of all respondents (18% of men and 17% of women) said there has been “increased conflict/criticism in the household” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- White respondents also appear to have much more time for leisure than any other racial/ethnic group surveyed.
- Asian respondents were particularly likely to report caring for or supervising elderly relatives or dependent adults. Hispanic or Latino/a and American Indian or Alaska Native respondents were by far the most likely to report looking for paid work, while (unsurprisingly, given other trends discussed) White respondents were most likely to report doing paid work.
- Only 10% of Black men listed “working on hobbies or creative projects” as one of the top three most important things they’ve given up or reduced. Black women were much more likely to have chosen “pursuing my education or studies” (14% chose this) than women overall (only 6%). Fully 44% of Latino men chose “looking for paid work” as an important thing they’ve given up, nearly triple the rate among all men.
- While 27% of men shared that they’ve had to give up “having quality time” with their partner or spouse, a somewhat lower proportion of women (18%) listed this as among the most important things they’ve had to give up.
Oxfam is a global organization working to end the injustice of poverty. We help people build better futures for themselves, hold the powerful accountable, and save lives in disasters. Our mission is to tackle the root causes of poverty and create lasting solutions.. For more information see: www.oxfamamerica.org/about
Founded in Brazil in 1997, Promundo works to promote gender equality and create a world free from violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women, girls, and individuals of all gender identities. Promundo is a global consortium with members in the United States, Brazil, Portugal, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Chile that collaborate to achieve this mission by conducting cutting-edge research that builds the knowledge base on masculinities and gender equality; developing, evaluating, and scaling up high-impact interventions and programs; and carrying out national and international campaigns and advocacy initiatives to prevent violence and promote gender equality. For more information, see: www.promundoglobal.org
MenCare is a global fatherhood campaign active in more than 55 countries on five continents, coordinated by Promundo and Sonke Gender Justice. Our mission is to promote men’s involvement as equitable, nonviolent fathers and caregivers in order to achieve family well-being, gender equality, and better health for mothers, fathers, and children. We aim for men to be allies in supporting women’s social and economic equality, in part by taking on more responsibility for childcare and domestic work. We believe that true equality will only be reached when men are taking on 50% of unpaid care work. For more information, see: www.men-care.org