The Double Burden: Impact of Economic Empowerment Initiatives on Women’s Workload

Author/s: State, Society and Governance in Melanesia & International Women's Development Agency

In all countries, women and girls do the bulk of unpaid care work. On average, women spend twice as much time on household work as men and four times as much time on childcare. Women also work longer hours than men overall when both paid and unpaid work is taken into account.

The situation is particularly difficult for poor and marginalised women, who often have limited access to basic amenities, time-saving domestic technologies, public services, infrastructure, and social protection policies. Research in the Pacific supports this finding, with time-use surveys confirming that women have a greater workload than men when paid work and unpaid household and caring responsibilities are combined.

It has been increasingly recognised that the time, intensity and low status associated with unpaid care work represents a major barrier to women’s equal participation in the formal workforce. However, there has been limited consideration of the impact of women’s increased involvement in income generation on women’s caring work within the household, and what this means for women’s well-being and security.

The limited research which does exist suggests that for many women, new economic opportunities have resulted in a greater feminisation of responsibility for both productive and reproductive roles. Economic insecurity has increasingly led to female economic participation being seen as advantageous, which has increased women’s participation in previously male dominated roles. However, this has not led to an equal reallocation of labour within the household. Men are not taking on greater responsibility for domestic work and unpaid care at the same rate at which women are increasing their economic participation. Earlier research conducted in the Solomon Islands supports these findings; demonstrating that women continue to perform the majority of the housework, childcare and community obligations, despite the increasing reliance on women’s economic contributions.

This Brief draws on research conducted in the Solomon Islands in 2014 in two research sites in Makira province (Kaonasugu and Tawatana) and three research sites in Malaita province (Kiu, Wasisi, Sorairo, Kopo and Nuhu villages) and Rohinari), as part of the Do No Harm research project. Women-only savings clubs had been established within each of these research communities (see Table One on p.1).


  • Organisation commissioning the research: Pacific Women
  • Date Published: December 1, 2016
  • Language published in: English
  • Search keywords: Do No Harm, SSGM, ANU, IWDA, Double burden

Economic Empowerment