By Joanna Roughton.
After years of prevaricating, I have given in.
Yes, dear reader, I have hired a cleaner. Just two hours a week, scarcely enough time to pick up the dirty clothes thrown onto the floor by six lazy schoolchildren, but another rifle pointed from the trenches at the monster of domestic squalor.
It’s amazing what a cleaner can do in a couple of hours. Totally focused on her job, her efforts put mine to shame.
Hitherto, I have avoided hiring a cleaner because of my previous experience. The cleaner was great. But seeing a pristine home transformed into something far messier in a matter of minutes, the moment the kids returned from school, was enough to put me off domestic help for years.
There was also the cost. The old cleaner came for three hours, three times a week. The new one will be with us weekly, and just for the two hours. She comes via an agency, who charge me £28 for two hours, of which £20 goes to the cleaner.
I thought about these modest sums in relation to the annual publication of unpaid work data by the Office for National Statistics.
This blog has heralded these figures before as the biggest step forward in home-making public relations for years.
And this year’s figures do not disappoint, as I’m about to relate. The only negative caveat is the almost total lack of follow-up in the national press.
So, the numbers then. The ONS values unpaid work done in the UK at £1 trillion. That is equivalent to about 56 per cent of the UK’s total GDP.
This includes every kind of household chore, from cooking to cleaning, from DIY to gardening. There is a gender bias to the results. The ONS found that women do twice the work men do around the home. On average, men do 16 hours a week of cooking, childcare, eldercare and housework – which includes things like laundry and cleaning. For women the figure rises to 26 hours.
The only family activity where men outperform women is where ‘dad’s taxi’ is concerned. Menfolk spend more time than women ferrying children around. They also spend more time commuting, which is deemed by the ONS to be unpaid work, and so included in the overall data.
This year’s figures do include an eye-catching and potentially very useful statistical innovation. The ONS has launched an ‘unpaid work calculator’, designed to help people work out the value of all the unpaid labour they provide.
Using this calculator, one hour of housework is equivalent to £8.58 a week or £446 a year. One hour of childcare is calculated to be worth £15.28 per week or £795 per annum. Meal preparation comes in at £7.63, or £397. Transport, be that taking a toddler to a playdate or commuting to work, is said to be worth £11.24 or £584.
I’m not sure I could hire a taxi for £11.24 per hour, but the broad point is useful.
The ONS says its calculator is based on data from earnings across the UK workforce in 2016 and is based on the principle of what one would pay someone to do the job instead of oneself. The average man would earn £166.63 more per week if his unpaid work was remunerated, whereas the average woman would earn £259.63.
And what happened when I used the calculator? Well, let’s just say that – at £20 a week – the new cleaner is a bargain, as I shall be reminding my husband.