Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — As a mother of two, 32-year-old Nguyễn Bích Liên in Hà Nội’s Hoàng Mai District says working outside and doing chores exhausts her.
Liên is typical of working women in a Vietnamese city, who work eight hours or more while still take care of most of a household’s domestic work.
Liên said she and her husband leave for work at half past six in the morning. On the way to work, they drop their two children – a 5-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son – at their parents’ house where the children have breakfast, then the grandfather takes the girl to school and the grandmother looks after their son until late afternoon.
“After work, I take the children home, bathe them, cook, clean the house, have dinner, wash the dishes, take a bath and wash clothes,” Liên explained of her daily activities.
“My husband will help me with some chores if he doesn’t go play tennis or football,” she said.
She added that he usually arrives home late and complains he has been “too busy working”.
“Twenty four hours a day seems not enough time, especially when we celebrate special events like Tết (Lunar New Year Festival) holiday. It is a nightmare for any working woman if their children or elderly in the family get sick or hospitalised,” Liên said.
She said that after giving birth to her daughter, she stayed at home for about a year to take care of the child and partly because it was difficult to find suitable work. However, when she was unemployed, she was considered "a burden to her husband". Things are better since she went back to work, as two working parents can better feed a family of four.
Housework and caring for children has long been seen as women’s work. If a male does such work, they are given high praise. Does such praise widen the gender gap?
In disadvantaged remote areas, women face a heavier burden of unpaid care work because of poor social infrastructure and sexism surrounding "women’s work".
The cooking, cleaning and caring for children, elderly and sick is often taken for granted although it is vital for both people’s wellbeing and the functioning of the economy.
The average Vietnamese adult in 2015 spent 22.3 hours per week on market work and 32.6 hours per week doing unpaid care and housework, according to a 2015 study within the Counting Women’s Work project – a research effort within the National Transfer Accounts project carried out in nine low-and-middle income countries around the world.
The project is co-ordinated by the University of California, Berkeley, the East West Centre, Honolulu and the University of Cape Town in South Africa. It has been supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Canada’s International Development Research Centre IDRC.
According to the study findings, Vietnamese women in 2015 spent 19.7 hours per week on market work and 38.7 hours per week on unpaid care work and for men, 25.1 hours and 26.2 hours.
Unpaid care and housework represent 61 per cent of all work time in Việt Nam and women are responsible for 60 per cent of it. Women also do 45 per cent of all market work.
Trần Thị Thúy Anh from UN Women in Việt Nam said that the unequal distribution of unpaid care and domestic work negatively impacted school attendance of girls and further education and training opportunities for women.
Time constraints are barriers for women to participate in economic activities. They are usually paid less than men. Income inequality is often defined by gender differences in education and type of employment.
The lack of time may also prevent women from accessing health services. The workload of unpaid care and domestic work may cause health problems, she said.
Director of the Institute for Labour Science and Social Affairs, Nguyễn Thị Lan Hương, who joined Việt Nam’s team in Counting Women’s Work project said that unpaid care work should be recognised and valued to avoid underestimating women’s contribution to the national and household economy.
Care and domestic work should be “reduced” and “redistributed” for women, implying that the work is shared by both boys and girls, both wives and husbands, both women and men.
Moreover, it is necessary to improve public infrastructure and services to reduce burdens on women, she said. — VNS