Putting a price on unpaid work

5th December 2016

The Office for National Statistics has been examining the value of unpaid work.

Every three months the news headlines draw attention to how much UK gross domestic product (GDP) has changed over the past quarter – the last reading was +0.5%, better than many experts had predicted in the wake of the Brexit vote. However, GDP is a slippery concept and some activity is deliberately excluded from the measure.

In November the Office for National Statistics (ONS) looked at one of those excluded areas – the unpaid work which households carry out for themselves or other households. Such work covers a range of activities, from housework and cooking through to driving ‘mum’s/dad’s taxi’ and volunteering. The ONS puts the value of all such unpaid work at just over £1,000bn in 2014, which is more than half of the GDP for the year of £1.8 bn.

ONS says that on average men do 16 hours of unpaid work each week, worth about £166, whereas women do 26 hours, worth about £260. If you want to see how much your (or your partner’s) unpaid work is worth, the ONS has developed a simple calculator available at https://www.ons.gov.uk/visualisations/dvc376/index.html.

Discovering what you are not earning (or paying for!) is an interesting exercise, but there is a serious aspect to consider. Who would do that unpaid work if you or your partner were unable to so, for example because of illness? The cost would be considerably more than the ONS website numbers because their calculator works from what the notional employee would be paid for the service concerned, not what their employer would charge to provide it.

When you next review your income protection and life assurance cover – January would be a good time – it’s worth remembering the cost of those unpaid services.

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