• 10.17.16

There Is A Persistent And Harmful “Chore Gap” Between Girls And Boys

Girls do 40% more housework than boys in developing countries, limiting their life chances and perceptions of themselves.

There Is A Persistent And Harmful “Chore Gap” Between Girls And Boys
[Photo: Joel Guay/Shodanphotos/Getty Images]

When girls in poor countries are forced to do household chores, their whole conception of themselves changes. Rather than imagine themselves as success stories outside the home, they begin to think housework is all that girls do.


“The gendered distribution of chores can socialize girls into thinking that such domestic duties are the only roles girls and women are suited for, curtailing their dreams and narrowing their ambitions,” a new report from UNICEF says.

The “chore gap” between girls and boys in developing countries is persistent and insidious, limiting life chances among the 1.1 billion under-18 girls in the world. In all, girls do 40% more cooking, cleaning, and caring for family members than boys: 160 million more hours a year.

UNICEF says boys and girls start relatively equal. By age three or four, kids are developmentally similar. Girls and boys participate in pre-primary education at the same rate (though only 66% of the time). Gaps start appearing after that: in West and Central Africa, for example, only 79 girls are enrolled in secondary school for every 100 boys. Similarly, in the home, girls five to nine spend 30% more time, or 40 million more hours a day, on household chores compared to boys their age. At the age of 10 to 14, the chore gap is up to 50%, or 120 million more hours each day.

“The overburden of unpaid household work begins in early childhood and intensifies as girls reach adolescence,” says UNICEF’s Anju Malhotra in a press release. “Girls sacrifice important opportunities to learn, grow, and just enjoy their childhood.”

Time for boys to do their fair share around the home.

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About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.