how do we measure unpaid labor?
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unpaid care and domestic work: “all non-market, unpaid activities carried out in households –
including both direct care of persons, such as children or elderly,
and indirect care, such as cooking, cleaning or fetching water.”
- Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
what does it mean to care for another person?
when are actions care?
when are they labor?
what does concrete care look like?
what do abstract forms of care look like?
what can we measure?
what is gained or lost in the process of measurement?
the graph below is a prompt to explore the kinds of care and labor we do for others, and receive from others.
it's inspired by my life, so the actions are ones i observe in, receive from, and give to others. it's not exhaustive or prescriptive of care actions.
unlike most graphs, there's no external data source. it's interactive! drag the icons to make the graph better reflect the truth as you see it, feel it, and live it.
click and drag the icons!
Is trusting more work than doing laundry? Is grocery shopping a form of care? What ways do we have to measure and value the labor involved? What about meausuring care? Which of these actions have you done for others? Have you paid someone else to do any of this labor for you?
The answers will be different for everyone, and that matters. "Clean data" when it comes to care means scrubbing off parts of what make us human. That's a necessary evil when it comes to data, but it's worth pausing to reflect on what's lost as well as what's gained.
That's why you can drag the icons to rearrange the graph as you see fit, and why you can request a new icon here to fill in the gaps.
Care is hard to measure. The OECD points out cooking and cleaning as examples of "indirect care," but these actions barely scratch the surface of the rich and varied ways that humans rely on and uplift one another with care.
Some people are paid for care work; the vast majority are not. Across the world (according to the OECD's limited data), women do on average at least 3 hours of unpaid labor per day. Men do, on average, at most 3 hours of unpaid labor per day. Globally, men perform many more hours of paid labor than women do, but even women who work full time outside the home still do more unpaid work than men do. Paid work is easier to measure and count, which in turn makes it not only easier to study and understand, but more likely to be counted and valued as labor.
What might be gained by better recognizing and understanding the labor that goes on unpaid? It is essential both to the paid labor it makes possible and to the unquantifiable social fabric of a functioning society. Unpaid labor supports the entire global economy, as well as so much more than can be measured in money or data.
From a data visualization perspective, this project aims to reflect on the data we do have, and point out the negative space of the data we lack.
If you're curious to read about the background of this project, including visualizations of paid and unpaid labor with data from the OECD, check out the accompanying article here.
Thanks so much for reading and interacting with this project. I have to say a massive thank you to Ellie Frymire for her role as advisor, providing cogent feedback and lots of cheerleading. A big thanks also to Matt Gold and Jason Nielsen for their support.
made with <3 by eva sibinga