Telling the Story of Unpaid Work

How can journalists write about unpaid work so that it has the maximum impact?
Policy Paper
June 8, 2016

A new report from POLITICO Focus and New America’s Global Gender Parity Initiative maps the media consumption habits of international decision makers, and examines their attitudes toward and understanding of gender inequality and unpaid work in the U.S. and around the world. Those surveyed for the quantitative and qualitative parts of the research  included a select group of decisionmakers working in international finance and economic development as well as POLITICO's international readership (specifically those who opted into the publication’s U.S. and European newsletters focused on finance and money). Please find more information about the surveyed population inside the report.  

The report highlights opportunities and approaches for journalists who cover those subjects.  

A few key takeaways:

  • When asked to define “unpaid work,” those surveyed used words spanning from “care worker” and “homemaker” to “intern” and “slave,” suggesting that unpaid work is not well understood. There’s also an opportunity for journalists to help make the subject more relatable to decision makers, and an opportunity to rebrand it.

  • The population surveyed cited the lack of reliable data on unpaid work as a barrier for organizations’ and countries’ ability to measure the value of unpaid work. This is compounded by pressure from within and outside international organizations to come up with a “magic number” to quantify gender inequality, risking oversimplifying the issue and making sweeping assumptions.

  • Those surveyed are overwhelmed by the amount of information they must curate and consume to stay abreast of news on international development and gender. While reluctant to relinquish control, there is enormous potential here for an aggregator that allows users to customize, consume, and share content around these issues.

  • The survey also provided demographic research on the reading habits of international policymakers and policy influencers. It found that across the board, but especially among older influencers, long-form content and opinion pieces did better than videos, infographics, and data visualizations.

Journalism can and should play a critical role in raising awareness and helping readers understand the impact of unpaid work on families and for society. While journalism can’t fix the data problem, it can help make unpaid work a priority issue for international organizations.