Unpaid work

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Unpaid work is labor employment done without giving any wage to the worker. These may be either members of a family or cooperative; conscripts or forced labour; volunteer workers who work for charity or amusement;[1] students who take intern positions as work experience; or conventional workers who are not paid because their enterprise is short of money or subject to embezzlement.

Unpaid student interns in the United States[edit]

There are three quarters of a million unpaid internship positions in the United States every year. Internships should provide training for students, not to be used by employers to save costs according to labor law. Two lawsuits have been recently launched by students who claim they were utilized as cheap (free) labor by their so-called employers to replace paid-workers.[2]

Unpaid domestic work[edit]


Unpaid domestic work is often a controversial topic within feminist economics, as it is significantly influenced by traditional family views. Unpaid domestic workers are often women who do not seek employment but instead work within the household and engage in domestic labor. The known factors behind a woman’s employment decisions include but are not limited to: The support of their spouse, the modernization degree of gender roles as well as the pressure of family responsibility. Regarding unofficial employment (including self-employment, a position within self-run enterprises and unpaid domestic labor) of women in the western world, such work is more commonly treated as a part-time occupation. In contrast, in many other parts of the world unofficial employment refers almost directly to unpaid domestic labor, not as an occupation but instead as an extension of a pre-existing family role. The working position is placed within the framework of the family, and the laborer is required to both see to family matters as well as the occupation.[3]


Female employment demographics indicate that the employment of married women is affected greatly by marriage and childbirth. Due to a husband’s employment, a woman can often be pushed into the role of an unpaid domestic worker through traditional as well as economic pressure. Even when women are employed full-time outside the house, they may perform a greater share of household chores and childcare activities.[4] Gender-based pay inequity in the labor market contributes to this phenomenon. Women face lower wages and fewer promotional opportunities and adjust their time in the labor market to respond to demands at home.[5]


Recent research in the United States has revealed the cost of hiring laborers to work in positions usually taken by unpaid domestic workers. The value for individual families is significant: it increases personal income by 30 percent.[6] But the effect on the economy is also noteworthy. If this work were incorporated when measuring GDP, it would have raised it by 26 percent in 2010.[7]


The traditional view of a family involves a woman in unpaid domestic labor supporting the household; however, under trends of dual earner couples and a gradually aging population, the commercialization of housework and domestic care has become inevitable. Arguments have been made that the value of unpaid domestic labor must always be considered to prevent the exploitation of unpaid workers, and thus should be seen as legitimate employment. There are also arguments that a "caregiver allowance" should be provided to unpaid domestic workers to protect the labor value of their work.[8]


As the issue of unpaid domestic workers is closely tied to concepts within gender equality, there have been many discussions over the subject. In 2010, The New York Times released an article detailing the stigma of housewives and domestic labor in northern European countries as well as much of the developed world. As education levels of women continue to rise, unpaid domestic workers beginning to be seen as “lazy” and a drain upon GDP, leading to the negative image of a housewife not officially employed.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jone L. Pearce (1993), Volunteers, ISBN 978-0-415-09427-6 
  2. ^ "Fewer unpaid internships in works" USA Today published March 8, page B1
  3. ^ UNIFEM: Progress for the World's Women 2005 (PDF), 2005, pp. 6–9 
  4. ^ Sirianni, Carmen; Negrey, Cynthia (2000). "Working Time as Gendered Time". Feminist Economics. 6 (1): 59–76. 
  5. ^ Sirianni, Carmen; Negrey, Cynthia (2000). "Working Time as Gendered Time". Feminist Economics. 6 (1): 63. 
  6. ^ Benjamin Bridgman, Andrew Dugan, Mikhael Lal, Matthew Osborne, and Shaunda Villones (2012), Accounting for Household Production in the National Accounts (PDF), p. 33 
  7. ^ Benjamin Bridgman, Andrew Dugan, Mikhael Lal, Matthew Osborne, and Shaunda Villones (2012), Accounting for Household Production in the National Accounts (PDF), p. 23 
  8. ^ UNIFEM: Progress for the World's Women 2005 (PDF), 2005, pp. 58–73 
  9. ^ The Stigma of Being a Housewife,The New York Times, 2010