Odile Mackett


Since the 1970s and 1980s, women’s increased labour force participation has caught the attention of scholars, governments, labour unions and organisations such as the ILO. The increase in female labour force participation has accompanied the globalisation and liberalisation of product and labour markets around the world. As a result of these changing characteristics around the labour force, particularly as it relates to growing precariousness in the labour market, the ILO developed the Decent Work Agenda to set a standard with which to measure workplace vulnerability. They also listed gender equality as a cross-cutting goal of the Agenda and recognise the reproductive labour of women and its contribution to women’s vulnerability in the labour market. Using a Decent Work Index as an indicator for quality of work, this study made use of two waves of the South African time-use survey to investigate the relationship between time spent on unpaid reproductive labour and the quality of paid work. The analysis found that there is a significant relationship between time spent on unpaid reproductive labour and the quality of paid work, although this relationship is only significant for female workers. Furthermore, the study finds that this relationship was also only significant when economic and labour market conditions were relatively poor. This confirms the theorisations of feminist scholars who have written about the pressure which is put on households during times of economic distress when governments employ contractionary fiscal measures and businesses scale down by reducing benefits and laying workers off. Given that this relationship is only significant for women, this confirms that women’s domestic responsibilities are in fact a hindrance to their advancement in the labour market and a key source of gender inequality in the productive sphere.

Note on the Author

Odile Mackett is a lecturer and PhD candidate at the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Governance, Johannesburg, South Africa. Her PhD research focuses on the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda and gender equality in the labour market. More generally, her research interests include social security, which is closely linked to access to the labour market, and the importance this has for poverty and inequality outcomes. Her current ongoing projects include an investigation of household composition changes and the effects thereof on labour market attachment. Email: odile.mackett@wits.ac.za ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3635-0750