Women spend twice as much time as men on unpaid care work in Bosnia and Herzegovina, new study finds
24 May 2023
Women in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) spend more than six hours a day on unpaid care work, while men spend just over three hours, according to a new study.
Most women also cook at least once a day (85 per cent), compared to just 27 per cent of men.
The report, entitled Baseline Study on Care Economy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was produced by the Economic Institute Sarajevo in partnership with UN Women BiH, with the support from the Government of Sweden. The research, undertaken in 2022, represents the first assessment of the state of the care sector in BiH.
The study provides an overview of key factors, as well as policy and programming options to address the disproportionate distribution of unpaid care and domestic work. It also aims to generate evidence that can be used to develop strategies and interventions to help recognize, reduce, and redistribute such responsibilities within the household, community, labour market and government.
“Women and men across BiH require concrete solutions and policies that will ensure care systems uphold their human rights, are gender-responsive, disability-inclusive and age-sensitive,” said Ingrid Macdonald, UN Resident Coordinator in BiH at the study launch. “These changes are key to advancing socioeconomic progress in BiH, as without them the country will continue to exclude tens of thousands of people from its workforce and economy. I urge everyone to recognize the value of unpaid work, to advocate for the redistribution of care equally between women and men, as well as individuals and families."
The care economy is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world and the main driver of employment growth and economic development. In BiH, the care economy comprises about 120,000 jobs (14.9 per cent of total employment, compared to 17.4 per cent in other European countries). The care economy includes housework, childcare, care for the elderly and/or for people with disabilities, and covers services provided in both paid and unpaid forms, in the formal as well as in the informal sector. In BiH, many women perform care work, but it is mostly unpaid.
There is a high percentage of economically inactive women in BiH, many of whom cite household responsibilities and childcare as the key reason for not taking on paid employment. BiH has one of the highest female unemployment rates in the region (18.8 per cent in 2019).
“Women traditionally bear the disproportionate burden for childcare, elderly care and care for people with disabilities,” says Jo-Anne Bishop, UN Women BiH Representative a.i. “While care work drives employment and has a high economic value, it remains systematically undervalued. To advance change, it is critical to reduce the amount of unpaid care work performed by women through transformative care policies and investments in the care economy, which will enable women and girls to realize their economic rights and opportunities, increase their labour force participation and access decent jobs.”
When it comes to domestic work, the study also revealed that the number of hours spent per day by women in BiH is twice as high as the European Union average (7 versus 3.5 hours, respectively).
“The research shows that women ‘carry’ the housework,” explains Professor Maja Arslanagić Kalajdžić, one of the study’s authors. “Stereotypes about gender roles are still quite present, and culture and tradition are important aspects that should be considered. Only 31.4 per cent of respondents use the services of the childcare sector, which refers to preschool education and early education programmes.
The study also offers concrete solutions that can change the situation, such as the establishment of one-stop-shops for the provision of multiple types of care and nursing services, parenting schools, etc. The study will be useful to decision-makers in the field of care at all levels (municipal, cantonal, entity and State), in areas such as social protection, employment and education.
Disproportionate responsibility for care that is generally the responsibility of women in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) society is the source of gender inequality and women's unequal access to the labor market. To find solutions to recognize and redistribute responsibilities in the field of unpaid and paid care work, today UN Women in BiH initiated policy dialogues on reforms in the field of care economy.
The initial policy dialogues on the care economy were held as part of localized UN Women’s Generation Equality initiative, and the work of the Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights, launched in 2021, which focuses on care economy and women’s economic empowerment in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Baseline study on Care Economy can be found here, and a related policy brief here.
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women