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Construction of the Gendered Household

Exploring the Value of Unpaid Domestic Labour

Researcher

Freshta Ahmadzai

SFU Affiliation

Alumnus, Department of Political Science

Areas of Research

Unpaid domestic labour, comparable worth theory, labour theory, informal economy, gendered households, Maria Mies

Through the comparable worth theory, I evaluate various paid wages for domestic labour across the Canadian provinces, using the recent General Social Survey (2015), Labour Force Statistics (2017/2018), and Statistics Canada’s Time Use data to determine an economic value, represented through an hourly wage, for unpaid domestic labour. I am extrapolating a nuanced view which extends academia on the relation of domesticated forms of labour and gender—specifically, how this labour is inherently devalued as a structural component of the economic system. Within the structures of capitalism, such cheap labour remains devalued and informal, meaning unrecognized and invisible in both the market and social setting. I discuss these findings and the limitations of current theoretical tools in evaluating unpaid domestic labour, including structural limitations in their application. Such limitations reveal the shortcomings of Marx’s labour theory for informal economic transactions and beg a re-envisioning of alternative labour theories.

This research is written to address the problem of devalued and invisible labour, which not only women of low income status experience. It addresses a vital aspect of the economic and social inequalities in Canada, which we cannot overcome unless we reevaluate how we measure economic inequality. That is why this research asks: What is the economic value of unpaid domestic labour in Canada? Is this labour devalued? It questions the systematic role of determining the economic value of labour, and whether wages for paid domestic labour are devalued due to its roots in domesticated environments.

Wage of unpaid domestic labour across Canada

Unemployment rates for women in BC during COVID-19

The impact of this research is not reliant on a grand detour from the current academia on unpaid domestic labour. In fact, it is to encourage rethinking at the community level how we understand unpaid domestic labour and its economic value. The project has a versatile and intersectional nature, as it evaluates how skills translate to economic value, and challenges the discriminatory bias used to evaluate the economic value of domesticated labour. As such, this research is meant to be extrapolated, debated and extended, which can occur in an environment where open discussions across different educational backgrounds are encouraged. Therefore the impact lies in its ability to encourage us to rethink how we envision the division between paid and unpaid forms of labour.

Defining housework

Liveable wage vs. calculated wage by province

About the Researcher

Freshta Ahmadzai

Freshta Ahmadzai (she/her/hers) originally submitted this research for the 2020 Community Summit as a fourth-year Political Science student undertaking the Honours program. She graduated in October 2020 and now works with SFU co-op students. Freshta specializes in feminist theory and political thought, and also takes an interest in the role of social movements and community building to strengthen political engagement. As she is pursuing a career in research, she is excited to present her work at Innovations in Research to hone her presentation skills and engage as an academic with the community.