More than 12 billion hours of unpaid work contributed each day by female carers, charity says in annual inequality report
The 22 wealthiest men on the planet are richer than all 325 million women living in Africa, Oxfam has claimed. The charity's annual inequality report was released ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, and claims that the devaluation of unpaid care work carried out by women worsens the gulf between the wealthiest and poorest.
Researchers found women and girls contributed 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work – which involves providing support for children and the elderly – each day.
The study, called Time to Care, suggested that this work constituted a handout to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion (£8.3 trillion) a year, which is more than three times the output of the global tech industry.
Women, particularly those who are impoverished, were found to do more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work.
Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive of Oxfam GB, said: “When 22 men have more wealth than all the women in Africa combined, it’s clear that our economy is just plain sexist.
“One way that our upside-down economic system deepens inequality is by chronically undervaluing care work – usually done by women, who are often left little time to get an education, earn a decent living or have a say in how our societies are run, and are therefore trapped in poverty.
“If world leaders meeting this week are serious about reducing poverty and inequality, they urgently need to invest in care and other public services that make life easier for those with care responsibilities, and tackle discrimination holding back women and girls.”
Campaigners have long drawn attention to the gendered element of global inequality and the fact it is women and girls who come off worst in cases of stark wealth polarisation.
Oxfam claimed that governments were compounding and even driving global inequality – which sees half the world’s population subsisting on less than $5.50-a-day – by failing to properly tax corporations and the rich.
Research by the charity has suggested delivering an improved water source could free up huge amounts of time in some women’s lives – up to four hours of work a day, or two months a year, in areas of Zimbabwe.
The charity said that climate change, the ballooning global population and its ageing composition could inflate the burden on carers even more. Britain has profoundly high levels of income inequality in comparison to other developed nations. The top 10 per cent of households take home around one-third of all income, as well as owning two-thirds of all wealth.