Corona and the multiplication of the unpaid care work that a woman MUST do!

Frustrated! Tired! I feel like crying all the time! These are some statements of women according to their situation in times of COVID-19 in Albania. By Arlinda Shehu.

Bild: Tired adult woman von Andrea Piacquadio / pexels lizenziert unter CC0

The "Gender Equality Index for the Republic of Albania 2020” indicates very unbalanced responsibilities regarding care for family members and unpaid household work. Women are primarily responsible for unpaid work within the household, as well as raising children and caring responsibilities, household chores, and care for older people. The index highlights the fact that the burden of women for household chores is not lighter regardless of their employment status. “Women are by far the largest participants of unpaid care work. The data from the 2011 Time Use Survey show that over 90 percent of women, regardless of their employment status, participate in unpaid work compared to less than 50 percent of men. Furthermore, employed women devote about 4 hours to unpaid work compared to less than one hour for their men counterparts. The difference is much larger for women who are not in employment. Women who are not employed spend about 6 hours in unpaid work compared to about one hour spent by men who are not employed”.

Only 1% of men are not part of labor market because of care work

Also, the yearly report Women and Men in Albania 2019 shows that only 1% of men are not part of labor market because of care and household work compared to 21.4% of the women who do not work because they have to take care about children and home.

The National Strategy and Action Plan on Gender Equality (NSAPGE) 2016-2020 has set as one of its objectives the reduction of women’s unpaid domestic work by increasing access and quality of social services. Actually the Objective 1.2 of the strategic goal 1 aims the “Reduction of women’s unpaid domestic work by increasing access to and quality of social services” with the expected outcomes: (i) reduction by 10% of the unpaid work of women as a result of increased access to social services, such as nurseries, kindergartens, services for the elderly (especially older women), services for women and children with disabilities. Anyway, a  study of Together for Life organization on kindergartens in Tirana highlights as the main problem the lack of space needed for the well-being of children in the kindergartens of the capital. Though the monitoring was done on 2017, the situation has not changed, though the Municipality of Tirana promotes each year on its midterm budget the promise of building new nurseries, kindergartens and schools.

Work-life-balance for women almost impossible

Meanwhile, the “Gender Equality Index for the Republic of Albania 2020” indicates that while women carry a majority of unpaid care work, they do not participate as much as men in social activities that are important for their wellbeing and quality of life, showing that the NSAPGE has not reached its objectives. The index shows that although the constraints that unpaid work and household responsibilities pose for women are widely recognized, there is a gap in policies regarding equal division of time and household responsibilities between women and men.

The Index score for Albania in domain of time is lower than average for EU-28 for 17.6 points. In EU there is on average lower share of persons caring every day for children or other family members than in Albania (37.5 percent among women and 24.7 percent among men) with still prominent gender gap.

With the recent COVID-19 situation and the order for social isolation, families (25% of which are multigenerational households [1]) stay exclusively home, multiplying the burden of women.

“Before, my children were at school. I went to work and when I got back I had to clean the house, cook and help them with the learning. This has not changed, except that now, as they are all day home, I have to clean more, to cook more and I feel I have no control over what they are doing on the internet as the “online learning” excuse makes them use the internet all the time”, says Bora, mother of two. As a journalist, she has to go to the office every day despite the social distancing measures during COVID-19. The hours of unpaid care work have doubled. “I feel frustrated”, says Bora.

The situation does not differ for mothers that work from home. “In the everyday life my children are at school and I am at work. Usually, in the afternoon I get back home, I cook, I clean, I help my youngest child with the school (as the oldest has grown enough to take care of her own things). Now I have to cook multiple times per day, the house has to be cleaned more, I have to keep them busy by inventing different kind of games, so they do not stay all day in front of the computer, and also I have to support them on their learning. On the other hand, I have to work and working at home with the children calling out for their needs every minute, it’s really hard. The burden is a lot more than before and I am really looking forward to the day that my children will go back to school”, says Ledina, mother of two.

87.8 percent of women and only 16.1 percent of men perform everyday housework

When asked about their help from the husbands, Bora and Ledina agree that they are “no help at all”. Actually, according to the Albanian official data, there is remarkable difference between women and men in share of persons reporting that they care for their children or grandchildren, older people or people with disabilities every day (51.1 percent of women and 24.6 percent of men). The difference is even more prominent when everyday cooking and housework are in concern, since this kind of activity is performed by 87.8 percent of women and only 16.1 percent of men. It results that the average amount of time women spend on unpaid work is significantly higher in Albania than elsewhere.

The differences though start since the childhood. According to the Institute of Statistics, the probability that a girl participates in doing household chores is 7.4 times higher than a boy.

With COVID-19, the time of unpaid work for women has multiplied. As the examples above show, they have more housework to do, they need more time to care about children and the older people and also they need more time for their work to succeed. On the other hand, if the situation continues to escalate, the consequences will be more severe.

“In the first weeks, it was acceptable. Actually, I feel like crying all the time. I am looking so forward to things going back to normality”, says Anisa, a wife and a care worker.

[1] Data Centrum Research Institute and Institute of Statistics



Arlinda Shehu is Program Manager at Association "Together for Life" Tirana, Albania.

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