Policy Paper

#ICare campaign: For a (gender) just society

Gender gaps contribute to structural inequality between men and women. WifOR’s #ICare campaign highlights the hidden gender care gap, meaning women work longer hours – taking on significantly more unpaid care work than men. The campaign strives towards a fair distribution of care work without financial risks for all genders.

Equal Care Day, Equal Pay Day, International Women’s Day – March is the month of action for more equal rights between men and women. Current studies show that this topic is still highly relevant in 2023. Women work more, earn less, and more often find themselves in financially dependent situations. The #ICare campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of unpaid domestic care work. In the long run, the campaign strives to redistribute care work between genders – without financial risks for women or men. Read more about the scientific context behind the campaign in this article.

How (gender) just is German society? Many people know that the average gross hourly earnings of women are significantly lower than those of men. In Germany, this is by 18 percent. Most people also know that women often earn less for the same work. In 2020, women earned on average 6 percent less than men. However, focusing on the “gender pay gap” is not sufficient. WifOR’s #ICare campaign highlights that there are other “gender gaps” that lead to structural and social inequality between genders.

The Invisible Truth: The Gender Care Gap

Contrary to the idea that men work more than women, women actually have a longer working day than men. In addition to their paid employment, which averages around 30.3 hours per week, they spend an additional 27.4 hours per week on household chores and caring for relatives. This amounts to almost as much as in their paid employment. What makes this problematic is that this work is predominantly hidden and is hardly appreciated in monetary terms. In contrast, men work an average of about 37.9 hours per week in the regular labor market and invest an additional 14.8 hours in non-market activities.

Overall, women thus take on an average of 52.4 percent more unpaid care work than men. In a partnership with children, the gap widens further: the gender care gap is 83.3 percent. In contrast to men, women also suffer a sharp drop in salary, which increases with the number of children.

There are significant differences between men and women in the performance of non-market activities. For men, this relates more to voluntary and illicit work and less to informal reproduction sectors such as the household or caring for family members.

Corona pandemic exacerbates gender inequalities

The unequal distribution of earned income is one of the reasons why the gender care gap became entrenched in many families during the Corona pandemic. Predominantly women who took on the additional care tasks that arose. In return, they often reduced their working hours. In many cases, this led to the return of the outdated, past understanding of family roles in which the man was seen as the main breadwinner.

#ICare – Background Paper

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#ICare – Background Paper

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The long-term consequences: Higher risk of poverty in old age and dependency ratios

The gender gaps presented show that women bear a double burden – a key aspect of the #ICare campaign. They typically take on the role of caregivers and earn significantly less – with enormous long-term consequences. For example, the  lifetime gender earnings gap is around € 670,000 in western Germany and around € 450,000 in eastern Germany. As a result, women have a significantly higher risk of being affected by poverty in old age compared to men. (German) society is thus confronted with the fact that half of its population (women) participate less (socially and financially) in the economy. This limits women’s opportunities and creates economic dependencies in relationships.

#ICare – for a (gender) just society

The data clearly shows that care work, which is essential for our society, carries enormous financial risks for women. WifOR’s #ICare campaign aims to normalize conversations about care work by sharing different daily routines and raise awareness of its importance for our society. The long term goal is to ensure a fair distribution of care work between genders. Distribution of work should not be associated with financial risks for either men or women. After all, care work is, and will remain, an essential pillar of our society.