ABSTRACT

Introduction Unpaid family work is composed of domestic work, care and assistance provided by members of a household to other members. This work is similar in character to paid housework and care occupations, such as those related to the provision of domestic services, childcare, nursing, and care of the elderly and the disabled. The majority of unpaid family workers are women, and the recipients of domes­ tic and care services are other members of the household such as children, elders and disabled members. There are several reasons for studying unpaid family work, and each is rel­ evant to European and national policy. A central reason, which is particularly relevant for women, is the strong interconnection between paid and unpaid work. The economic literature on this point is very rich and exploits several different approaches. The problem of women’s participation in the labour market involves the analysis of its interaction with domestic work (Breen and Cooke 2005; Bonke et al. 2005); family childcare tasks and fertility choices (Del Boca and Vuri 2007; Del Boca and Locatelli 2007); and with care of the elderly (Spiess and Schneider 2003). These central concerns require measuring and assigning values to unpaid family work to trace the gender inequalities arising from the unequal sharing of family care tasks between women and men (Aliaga 2006). An additional reason for studying unpaid work is the measure of its contribu­ tion to GDP. This concern has led to building satellite accounts to be incorpor­ ated in the System of National Accounts (Chadeau 1992; Eurostat 2000; Eurostat 2003). At a European level, a comprehensive evaluation of the size and value of unpaid family household activities has shown that their total value ranges between 27.7 per cent and 36.8 per cent of the EU GDP, depending on the applied methodology (Giannelli et al. 2012). Analogous values have been found for a subset of European countries and for the United States (Alesina and Ichino 2009). These are astonishingly high percentages and the normal caveats related to estimating household production models (Gronau 1973) may lead to revising them downwards. However, even if cut in half, they would still represent a size­ able percentage of GDP that may seriously undermine policy decisions that ignore them.