Men spend more time working for money. Women do the bulk of the unpaid work — cooking, cleaning and child care. This unpaid work is essential for households and societies to function. But it is also valued less than paid work, and when it is women’s responsibility, it prevents them from doing other things.Now, why, exactly is this a problem? Everything anybody does prevents them from doing other things. What is wrong with a division of labor within the family with one adult concentrating on bringing in money (for the family to use to buy various things for its benefit) and the other adult specializing in the accomplishment of tasks for the direct benefit of the family (avoiding the cost of paying for someone else to do that work)?
The author, Claire Cain Miller, suggests that what's wrong is that people don't value the in-kind contribution made by the nonincome-earner and that women tend to be the ones in that role. Those 2 factors are related. Women may be stuck in a role because it's given low value and a role may be regarded as having less value because it is what women do. That doesn't mean the solution is to transform more single-earner families into 2-earner families and for them to pay outsiders to do more services. It's at least conceivable that a solution would be to encourage a more positive attitude toward household labor and to get beyond the presumption that it's women's work. In some families, the woman can do better going out and getting the income and the man can do better with the household tasks.
But here's the propaganda we're getting:
“This is one of those root inequalities that exist all over in society and we just don’t talk about it very much,” Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Gates Foundation, said in an interview. She said she was inspired by her own observations when traveling to other countries as well as by time-use data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. “If we don’t bring it forward, we basically won’t unlock the potential of women.”The "time-use data" shows women spending a lot more time on unpaid tasks than men. The data is presented to display a startling "time gap," but if men are putting a lot more time into paid work, the problem isn't what it's made out to be. And perhaps more importantly, time isn't necessarily the best measure of work, especially where one of the main unpaid chores is "child care." Much of the time you spend with your children is leisurely and pleasurable — immensely rewarding. If I'm reading a book while a youngster plays with toys nearby, do I get time credit for that?
In fact, one of the best things about home-based unpaid work is that you're not on a time clock, you're not translating every task into a dollar value. When the income-earning spouse contributes some unpaid housework, it might be distorted to look at the time. If much of the wife's work is child care, but the man's work is home repair, it's not an even trade off. If you were making a deal with your spouse and one person was going to look after a child for X hours and the other was going to do yard work and caulk windows and clean the garage for Y hours, a fair deal wouldn't be X = Y.
Cultural change is also important, Ms. Gates said.Good thing we have Melinda Gates around to see the unfairness in the world and tell us how to fix it. By the way, Bill and Melinda, some people would value the time spent in the car with a daughter. And don't you people have a driver? I'm sure there's some woman home with her kids who could do with a paid job driving your car. Why are you two bickering over a chore you have the money to pay people to do?
She recalled being unhappy about the long commute to her oldest daughter’s preschool. Mr. Gates, then chief executive of Microsoft, said he would drive their daughter two days a week.
“Moms started going home and saying to their husbands, ‘If Bill Gates can drive his daughter, you better darn well drive our daughter or son,’ ” Ms. Gates said. “If you’re going to get behavior change, you have to role-model it publicly.”
Is the NYT just basically reprinting PR from Bill and Melinda Gates? Do we really want their unfiltered advice on how to understand and fix the world's problems?
ADDED: Good lord! There's another Gates PR piece in the NYT today: "Bill Gates’s Clean-Energy Moon Shot."