Counting Women's Work: The Gendered Economy in the Market and at Home

Women have made strong gains in economic and political arenas but they continue to lag behind men. While women do similar work, they are usually paid less. Schooling or experience alone cannot account for the wage differences. Women also lack opportunities, have poor access to credit, and live with social restrictions or outright discrimination.

At home, women continue to do far more childcare and housework than men. Marketplace and household decisions are intertwined: women take jobs that allow them to combine family commitments with paid employment. These jobs tend to be lower paid, part-time, or informal. They also tend to lock women in situations with low economic recognition.

For some time, scholars and activists have emphasized the need to acknowledge women's full economic contribution. This project addresses the issue by incorporating women's non-market contributions into the market economy. The research teams will combine estimates of marketplace and household production by gender to produce gender equality indicators. These, in turn, will help develop policies that enhance women's well-being. The project will shed light on girls' and women's economic lives. A comprehensive and systematic approach to studying the issue has not been possible before now.

The project builds on the National Transfer Accounts' (NTA) previous investments, which focus on the different stages of men's and women's life cycle to provide better economic measures of production and consumption.

The Development Policy Research Unit at the University of Cape Town (funded by IDRC) will undertake the project with the University of California, Berkeley (funded by the Hewlett Foundation). The teams will work closely with about 10 national teams in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as other teams from high-income countries (not funded under this project). The work will take place over a period of three years. More specifically, the research teams will:
-refine and apply the methodology for estimating how men and women at each age acquire and use economic resources;
-produce and publish national-level gender-specific development indicators that include marketplace and household measures of economic activity by age;
-disseminate results to policymakers, the media, and directly to the public by producing policy briefs, press releases, and online information about the project results; and,
-combine estimates from this project with comparable estimates from other NTA countries and use the combined cross-national database to conduct research on gender and unpaid work.

The project is expected to provide consistent estimates and to engage national policymakers in recognizing women's economic contribution, along with the different policy options to enhance their well-being.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Monday, January 20, 2014


36 months

IDRC Officer

Rodriguez, Mr. Edgard

Total funding

CA$ 551,800


Americas, Latin America, Africa, South of Sahara, Asia

Project Leader

Morne Oosthuizen


University of Cape Town

Institution Country

South Africa

Institution Website