Doing it All: Self-Employed Women and Unpaid Domestic Labour during COVID-19

Daniel, Elizabeth; Reuschke, Darja; Henley, Andrew and Price, Victoria (2021). Doing it All: Self-Employed Women and Unpaid Domestic Labour during COVID-19. In: Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, 28-29 Oct 2021, Cardiff.



This study addresses the profound issue of how gender inequalities in unpaid domestic work have been affected by the unique conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic and how they are associated with inequalities in the paid work of self-employed women. We use data from seven waves of the UK Understanding Society COVID-19 study (April 2020 – January 2021), together with data from before the pandemic to undertake a quantitative longitudinal analysis of the additional unpaid domestic work undertaken over an extended period during the pandemic. We find that self-employed women spent more time on both childcare and housework than employee women and men, whatever their employment. We also find that increased hours of childcare and housework by self-employed women are associated with a reduction in paid working hours, rather than the industry segregation suggested by studies earlier in the pandemic. This supports the link between the unequal division of domestic of labour and poorer paid work outcomes. We also propose a novel index of the division of domestic labour within households that measures primary responsibility for household tasks. This suggests that self-employed women have primary responsibility than all other groups. We propose that this is associated with greater mental labour, and that self-employed women will be carrying this greater mental burden as well as the additional hours they spend on unpaid domestic work.

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