According to the Uganda National Household survey 2016/2017, the total working population stood at 15.1 million with 51 per cent being females.
Although women are working more outside the house than before, the expectation of them to do more domestic and care work has barely changed.
Ms Grace Utamuliza is a 26-year-old working wife in a top audit firm in Kampala. Her typical work day starts at 9 am and ends at 8pm. Some days, later than that. She does all the work required of her at office but still has to plan to get all the work done at home as well.
Currently without a maid, Ms Utamuliza does most of the house chores such as shopping groceries, cleaning, cooking and washing clothes.
“If I am leaving work late on a certain day, we shall order for food. Of course I have to wash utensils after cooking. A few times my husband will help but I try to avoid chores on weekdays so that am not stressed given that stress is mostly constant in my line of work,” Ms Utamuliza says.
While she is comfortable doing her housework for now, she says she should be allowed some flexibility.
“It should not be a do or die. I do what is within my means. Where I am unable to, my husband should step up and chip in,” she says.
Ms Cynthia Muhiirwa, a lawyer and mother of one, says it is time men appreciate that they can share domestic work with women to reduce the burden in a home.
“There needs to be attitude change on how men view gender roles,” she says, “Without a maid at home, I do most of the work apart from showering the baby which my husband does. On good days, he will get involved in the kitchen,” Ms Muhiirwa explains.
A 2018 Oxfam report on gender roles and the care economy in Ugandan households demonstrates the belief that domestic work is still largely done by women, much of which is unpaid.
The report shows more women, about 18.2 per cent engaged in unpaid care work compared to 3.1 per cent of men while more men than women engaged in paid work activities, 24 per cent versus 13.8 per cent respectively.
On average, women spent 32 hours weekly on unpaid care work and 21 hours on unpaid production of goods for home consumption while men spent 20 hours and 10 hours per week, respectively.
“The unpaid care work definitely has impact on the economy. You cannot have anything that goes wrong at home and expect full productivity at work. We are fortunate to have help but even then, there must be supervision,” Ms Angela Bageine, chairperson Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL) says.
A UN Women report estimates that unpaid domestic and care work is valued to be 10 and 39 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Another report by UN Women shows in countries such as Argentina, unpaid care work gives a figure of about 7 per cent while in Tanzania, figure stands at 63 per cent of GDP.
The report shows that this kind of work is seen as a solid foundation on which industries, services and economies thrive.
“We never measure the impact or real value of unpaid work. But if women put their foot down for one week, you would see the true impact of women on productivity of this economy,’ Ms Bageine says.
As a result of how much time women spend on unpaid care work, they have less time to engage in income generating activities yet when asked what they would do if they spent less time on unpaid care work, 61 per cent, 33 per cent and 30 per cent of the women in Kampala, Kaabong and Kabale respectively, said they would spend time on income generation.
Impact on economy
Measuring impact on Uganda’s GDP remains difficult but can be traced in the informality of businesses women engage in.
“Because of the high level of involvement in unpaid care work, most women are in the informal sector and you can imagine the level of informality and how it contributes to the economy, which is a lot. To women, unpaid care work reduces productivity. The level of desirability even for most people to employ women reduces especially for women in productive age,” Ms Guloba said.
Competition for opportunities to make money in this economy is fierce and on whether care work should be paid for, Ms Guloba is careful with her words.
“It depends on who is going to take on the care work. Probably we cannot place a value but if you insist I sit home and do the care work instead of a job, then you need to pay for it. Otherwise, I would have supported the home in terms of income basket and get someone to do it,” Ms Guloba says.
“As technology changes and life gets more expensive, we have to share the activities or pay for certain aspects. If some of them are reduced by technology, then one does not have to pay,” Ms Guloba says.
As this situation hardly benefits women, there are suggestions that putting in place affordable childcare facilities, affordable technology, empowering women financially and changing mindsets could improve productivity.
“There is evidence to show that in places of work that have introduced day care centres, productivity of women went up, as far as allowing women to work longer hours because their children are nearby,” Ms Guloba says.
Price tag for domestic work
Some people think there should be a price tag to domestic and care work.
“Every job has a market rate. If you got somebody else to do it, what is the value of that particular task? I am doing this work for family but if I was to bring somebody else, they would put a price tag to it. However, the women fear to attach a monetary value to it,” Ms Bageine says.
On average, research from Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) shows most house helps are paid less than Shs50,000.
Ms Bageine notes that attaching a monetary value for care work must be done carefully.
Due to spending more time in unpaid care work, entrepreneurs worry the economy could stagnate as a result of a generation of people who cannot think beyond the home.
Ms Madina Guloba, a senior research fellow in microeconomics at EPRC, says the issue of care work should be addressed to enable women engage in more productive work.
“Some of this work should be shared,” Ms Guloba says.
“Women do contribute a lot indirectly to this economy through this care work. Preparing children to go to school and having your husband not think about home issues, enables him to be more productive at work,” she adds.