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Gender inequality, work hours, and the future of work

Gender inequality, work hours, and the future of work

Around the world, women are more likely to spend more time on unpaid housework and on caring for family members than men. This unequal distribution of time spent on domestic duties potentially affect women’s chances at economic security and promotion at work.

Technological innovation, however, makes it possible to revisit the amount of time allocated for paid and unpaid work, address the unequal division of domestic duties between women and men, and devote time to acquiring new skills and knowledge that may be useful in the future. Machine learning, robotics, and artificial intelligence improves productivity by automating certain tasks, thereby freeing time and allowing fewer workers to do more.

Work hours matter to gender equality, and the first section of this report attempts to explain why. It explores the role of time-related policies in reducing gender inequality and, to a larger extent, social and economic inequality.

The second section of the report highlights the shifts in the quality of time at work and workforce policies around paid time off, workplace location and work schedules. The absence of paid leave rights, as well diminishing schedule control reinforce economic and racial/ethnic inequalities and are detrimental to parents.

Based on analysis of the Population Survey of the United States for 2019, the report discusses trends in hours worked during the last forty years for workers ages 25 to 64. It ends with recommendations on how to achieve a healthier and more equal distribution of work hours.


  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Gender Differences
    • During the Last Four Decades Women’s Hours Rose While Men’s Declined Marginally
    • Polarisation in Hours Worked Between Workers
    • Parenthood and Marriage Have a Stronger Effect on Women’s Working Hours Than Men’s
    • Full-Time Work, Part-Time Work and Overwork
    • Overwork Has Become Standard in the Highest Paid Jobs and is Reducing Women’s Access to Those Jobs
  • Workplace Policies: Schedule Variability, Location and Paid Time Off
    • Schedule Variability: Whateve the Number of Hours Worked, Work Schedules Have Become Less Regualar
    • Paid Time Off Work Allows Workers to Stay Healthy and Remain Connected to Emploment
  • The Way Forward: A More Equitable Distribution of Time Worked
  • Appendix
    • Data Sources on Hours Worked
  • References


This report was originally published on the IWPR website.

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