The value of unpaid work in the UK economy has been calculated at a staggering £1 trillion, or £1,000,000,000,000, or £10 to the power of 12, according to new Office for National Statistics (ONS) data. This includes voluntary work, like TIK.
This annual £1 trillion of value doesn’t come from undeclared work (cash-in-hand jobs where no tax or national insurance is paid) but from the types of unpaid activity that are not normally considered “work” at all: voluntary work outside the home, childcare, looking after the sick and elderly, private transport, DIY in the home, laundry and other housework.
The ONS study, released last week, is important because it officially quantifies ‘home production’ in the UK economy. It shows that the proportion of GDP attributed to unpaid work has grown by 3.9 per cent, from 52.2% to 56.1%, between 2005 and 2014.
As a society, we don’t recognise, celebrate, nurture or redistribute this valuable unpaid work. Every quarter the latest GDP figures are quoted and wrangled over by politicians and the media, while the value of domestic work is seldom discussed.
There are couple of reasons why this is a problem. First, not only is the unpaid economy on a par with the paid economy in terms of hours worked, but it also lays the foundations for the paid economy to function. Without the unpaid and voluntary work, the “real” economy would grind to a halt.
Second, gender inequality: women still do much more childcare than men, despite the myth of ‘new fathers’ who do more. In failing to properly value and support unpaid work, we are failing to recognise women’s double burden of paid and unpaid work following the huge influx of women into employment over the last half-century.
In TiK, we are planning to launch a local timebanking scheme which will put a value to work that local, Kings Langley, timebanking members do and allow them to exchange their time credits for other work. This will add value to the local economy and, in particular, allow volunteers on the TiK Community Farm to formally credit their work and “buy” back produce from the Farm alongside cash sales in the Monthly Food Market.