Women holding umbrellas walk back to work after a lunch break in the Futian district of Shenzhen, China. (Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

Being a Woman in China Means Working a Sixth of Your Life Unpaid

(Bloomberg) -- Being a woman is tough in China -- at least if you go by how men and women spend their day.

Chinese women on average spend 2.1 hours a day on housework, roughly three times that of men, according to a survey by the National Bureau of Statistics conducted last year and published Friday. The gap is much larger than that in the U.S., where women also work more than two hours on household activities, but men do twice as much as their Chinese counterparts.

Being a Woman in China Means Working a Sixth of Your Life Unpaid

When other chores -- such as taking care of children, grocery shopping or picking kids up from school -- are taken into account, Chinese women are engaged 3.8 hours a day on such “unpaid work,” more than the 3.58 hours on jobs or businesses. Men, on the contrary, work 1.53 hours unpaid and 5.25 hours paid.

The difference in average daily work hours also reflects that fewer women are employed full time. That gender gap doesn’t seem to narrow much over time -- the difference between unpaid work hours shrank by a mere 4 minutes compared compared to 2008, the last time such a survey was conducted. Within that period, per-capita economic output doubled, according to the same report.

While communist regimes usually emphasize gender equality, and decades of reforms offered Chinese women more opportunities to get education and jobs, they are still seen as the main caregivers and are more often expected to give up their careers for families when needed. China ranked the 103 out of 149 nations by the World Economic Forum on gender equality last year.

Men also have about half an hour more “disposable time” to do exercise, watch television, read magazines or meet up with friends, according to the survey. A more equal time expense item: men and women each spend 2.9 hours and 2.5 hours a day online, respectively.

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