What additional information should be taken into account when determining women's contribution to the economy?
As a political economist, the focus of my research and activism has always been how economic data can be used to influence public policy.
A main focus of my attention has been the United Nations System of National Accounts (UNSNA). In the UNSNA, national economies are defined in terms of market transactions; consumption, investment, and saving measures are given in addition to income and production totals. A vast amount of work performed by women is for household consumption or unpaid work in the informal economy. This work is not counted in UNSNA.
Just picture the following. A woman goes to collect water. She uses some to wash the dishes from the family evening meal (considered unproductive work), and some to wash the pots in which she had cooked a little food for sale (considered informal work). Next, she goes to the nearby grove to collect bark for dye for materials to be woven for sale (informal work). She also collects some roots and leaves to make an herbal medicine for her child (inactivity). All this time she will carry her baby on her back (inactive work).
Recently, however, some very fine programs have resulted from the consideration of these issues. The figures needed to ensure that the realities of women's and children's lives are made visible to economists and politicians are finally starting to be produced.
The Nova Scotia, Canada Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) has been designed as a pilot program. The indicators of GPI include statistics on unpaid work, divided into voluntary and community work; unpaid housework and parenting; and the value of unpaid overtime and underemployment. In 1997, Nova Scotians contributed an estimated 134 million hours of their time to civic and voluntary work, and more than 940 million hours to unpaid household work. Their unpaid work in these two categories was the equivalent of 571,000 full-year full-time jobs!