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IME is the ultimate resource, which should, in principle, be equally shared by everyone. It can be converted into money, goods, and services through work. Additionally, time is also required for the consumption of goods and services, for community work, and for leisure activities.

         You are time-poor if you work long hours and are not getting equivalent monetary value for the work.

 Thus being time-poor results from the combination of two conditions;      

–  First, you do not have enough time for rest and leisure once all working hours are accounted for.

– Second, you cannot reduce your working time without either increasing the level of poverty of your household.


       This is a major challenge to development. It takes many different forms, including;

  • Income inequality
  • Unequal access to and control over property and resources
  • Disparate access to civil and political rights
  • Unequal access to social, cultural, and economic rights.

All these forms of inequality possess different perspectives with respect to gender. 

       One form of inequality that has major adverse implications for accessing economic rights relates to gender-differentiated time-use

       The disparity in the allocation of time between women and men in the household and in the economy is a major gender issue implicated in time poverty.


      In this article, we analyze the allocation of roles between men and women. It shows how this allocation leads to time poverty among women.

       Information on the disparity in time-use will help to incorporate time poverty analysis as a component of poverty reduction strategies.

  “Who does what and when” within the normal African household shows that women and girls are responsible for domestic duties, taking care of the children, the infirm and the sick and producing food. They also spend their time maintaining social cohesion within the community.


     These activities according to local African cultures and beliefs are seen to be “women’s work”. They are considered to be menial and go uncompensated and unrecognized in the national statistics. Women who spend all their time performing these tasks are often considered “unemployed.”

      In countries where time-use studies have been conducted, it is shown that women work significantly longer hours daily than men. Little time is left for market-related and remunerated activities. Compared to men, women have very heavy time loads. This is because they are balancing the demands of their multiple roles: productive, reproductive, social, and community. The patriarchal foundation of the distribution of roles by gender is the major cause of;

  • Gender inequality,
  • The heavy time-burden on females, and
  • Ultimately, the feminization of poverty. 


      The 1995 Human Development Report used time-use data from 31 countries to highlight women’s status in the world and to measure their contribution  to economies. The point of this is that considering paid and unpaid work, women perform more work than men in developing and developed countries.

      This “women’s work”, which is important for human well-being, is to a large extent unpaid and not considered in national accounting systems. The conclusion of the report was that “Much of women’s work remains unrecognized and unvalued. This has an impact on the status of women in society, their opportunities in public life and the gender blindness of development policy” (UNDP, 1995).


Melinda Gates in 2016 told Time magazine about the 3-step approach to solving this issue which features the 3 ‘Rs’  ;

1. Recognize there is a problem.

“We want both boy and girls to realize there is this hidden cost in society,” she says. “While they think things might be equal, as soon as that first child comes into a relationship, things start to go backwards. All of a sudden the gender norms take over. Unless boys and girls start to talk about this now, talk about what they see going on and about what their expectations are.  Until we start to put a number on this unpaid work, I don’t think we will ever get there.”

Melinda Gates

2. Reduce it with innovation.

   Technological advancements come in here. The introduction of technology in the home means women have access to domestically versatile tools, not actual manual manipulation. This saves time spent on house chores. Biotechnology improvements to seeds could mean less time spent in the field ensuring proper growth.

 It is not just about having men take on more of women’s unpaid work—that alone would not fix the problem. It is about lowering the amount of unpaid work through innovation, education and technology. 

Melinda Gates, 2016

      Access to contraceptives could mean fewer children and thus fewer hours spent on childcare. Access to digital technology could mean better health information to reduce time spent caring for the family’s health needs.

     Several analyses of the importance of time-saving technologies and activities have highlighted their positive impact on female labour force participation.

3. Redistribute the work.

      A change in the expectations of gender roles in the home and paid leave policies. This allows women and men to take time to do unpaid domestic work.

Balancing the time spent on unpaid work between men and women could increase the influx of women into the workforce. This would lead to an elevation in the Gross Domestic Product by about 12% globally in the next decade. It would also give more women the carte blanche to do whatever in their daily lives. 

Another valuable way to re-enforce women’s economic rights and increase accountability for various international development initiatives is;

4) Further time-poverty analysis 

       This is a field of research that is still new and insufficiently explored, especially within Africa. Time-use analysis can offer an overview of all human activities (market and non-market work, consumption, community and leisure activities).       

 Further research in Africa would be useful in addressing the impact of women’s time burden on the economy. The analysis should focus on the linkage between time poverty, monetary poverty, and gender equity; further, it should address the adverse impact of heavy time burdens on the lives of women as human beings. 

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