Home support worker living pay cheque to pay cheque after pandemic sees her hours slashed

The Government is considering calculating the amount of unpaid work women do after a report found the Covid-19 pandemic could set gender equality back by 25 years.

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Twelve of Mavis Pearce’s home support worker colleagues, all female, had their hours reduced too. Source: 1 NEWS

Data from the United Nations shows women have been doing significantly more domestic chores and family care during the pandemic.

Mavis Pearce had her work hours cut due to Covid and now lives pay cheque to pay cheque.

“Some weeks you decide whether it’s the car payments or the food,” Pearce said.

Pearce’s 12 home support worker colleagues, all of whom are women, had their hours reduced too.

“Largely they are women-led and women heavy sectors, all that have contracted as a result of Covid-19,” Lisa Lawrence from the NZ Council of Women said.

The outcome is that women have swapped employment for more unpaid household chores.

Found during the pandemic, women spent 32 per cent more time cooking, while that only increased by 18 per cent for men.

Women spent 45 per cent more time cleaning, compared to 35 for men.

The time spent shopping is up too, with women doing 25 per cent more to 22 per cent for men.

“We have inadvertently defaulted into gender stereotypes and norms that were super common back in the 50's, 60's and 70's,” Lawrence said.

“We know that a lot of things that women end up doing are the things that are not valued much, Covid-19 is shining a light on lots of things we already knew.”

Mircobiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles, the Women of Influence supreme award winner in 2020, says she's seen the impact of that in her field.

“More papers are being submitted with men as authors than women and we're even seeing that in the research that's being done and published around Covid-19,” she said.

“This is really, really important because those publications are kind of like the currency of science, about how you get jobs and how you get promoted.”

The NZ Council of Women wants the Government to measure the amount of unpaid work that happens in the country and its value in next year's budget. The Government says it's something they'll consider.

“It’s a conversation we need to have as a country and it's really long overdue,” Women's Minister Jan Tinetti said.

Pearce says something needs to be done fast for the sake of future generations.

“Probably going to take us another century to get back to where we should be, we're hoping we get there sooner,” a laughing Pearce said.