Valuing young women’s unpaid work

4 March 2020

This research reveals that over half of women surveyed said unpaid work, such as cooking, cleaning and taking care of children was getting in the way of their ability to take up paid employment. Many surveyed said their male partners and siblings were free to do paid work, while they felt pressured, and in some cases, bullied, into supporting the household.

We trialed peer research methods, working closely with young women to make them feel more comfortable sharing their experiences of unpaid work.

Until my involvement with Young Women’s Trust I didn’t know the value of my own unpaid work. Every day I normalised the tasks that I did for others. I often felt exhausted and overwhelmed but had to keep going because if I didn’t, who would? “To be able to interview women as part of the research who were like me and share the same experiences of unpaid work was comforting. But it was also a huge responsibility to ensure that young women doing this work were given a voice and are valued for the jobs they selflessly do for others.

Tayah Turay, young woman peer researcher

The report, Valuing Young Women’s Unpaid Work, carried out by young women researchers aged 18-30 and a survey of 85 young women, found that:

  • Young women felt they were benefiting the economy by taking on tasks that would otherwise be paid, and that their work propped up others in paid employment.
  • Almost all of the women spoken to said they did want to be in paid employment but their daily unpaid work meant they could not pursue their own career goals and aspirations
  • Almost every young woman said that their male partners and family members were not expected to do the same as them when it came to doing unpaid work. Some women reported that this expectation not only came from their partner, but from their extended family and communities too.
  • Many young women found that unpaid work had a negative impact on their mental health and over half of them reported it had an impact on their sleep, relationships and ability to find work themselves.
  • This was particularly apparent for young women providing unpaid adult social care to family members, who felt that the expectation of them were born out of generations of women before them doing the same.

Worryingly, some young women reported that they were fearful of negative repercussions from either a partner or family member for not completing unpaid work. These testimonies showed clear examples of economic abuse where young women were actively prevented from accessing paid work or economic autonomy.