Unpaid housework by person

Status: This standard was approved as a departmental standard on October 23, 2009.


Unpaid housework refers to activity in which the person provided unpaid service such as domestic work, yard work or home maintenance for his or her household, for other family members outside the household or for friends or neighbours. It excludes volunteer services provided through a non-profit or religious organization, charity or community group. Unpaid housework includes, for example: preparing meals and associated cleanup; washing the car; doing laundry, ironing, folding and mending; gardening and cutting the grass; shopping and household planning as well as associated travel. It refers to such activity performed during a specified reference period.

Unpaid service refers to the contribution of labour to activity that is outside the production boundary defined for the System of National Accounts. It includes productive activities such as unpaid housework, unpaid care and volunteer services. It refers to such activity performed during a specified reference period.

Person refers to an individual and is the unit of analysis for most social statistics programs.


Unpaid housework includes work such as food preparation for young children that is also considered to be part of unpaid care provided. Please see the standard for unpaid care provided by person.

The activity included can be limited to primary activity only. In some applications, such as time use diaries, activities performed in a particular unit of time can be classified as primary or simultaneous. In each unit of time, one activity is identified as "primary" and any other activities performed at the same time are identified as "simultaneous". In such applications, the time spent in unpaid housework can either refer to all units in which unpaid housework was performed or only to those when unpaid housework was the primary activity performed. If only the primary activity is included, this should be specified.

Information on unpaid housework is typically collected for persons 15 years or over. The population included in the study should be specified.

Conformity to relevant internationally recognized standards

In its Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision 2, 2008, the United Nations (UN) follows the recommendations of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) concerning statistics about labour market activity. Activities within the production boundary defined by the System of National Accounts (SNA) are considered economic activities. Activities in this standard are considered to be non-economic activities. The UN does not provide any detailed standards for data collection on such activities. However, the UN does state that unpaid services are a significant area of human activity and that information on unpaid services is important in measuring the characteristics of groups with special needs such as the elderly, children and people with disabilities. The UN suggests that areas covered by unpaid service may include unpaid domestic activities, unpaid care, unpaid care of children and unpaid voluntary work. The UN makes the following recommendations in terms of the categorization of unpaid services:

Countries may wish to identify separately the persons who provide social and personal services to their own household, other households or to voluntary, non-profit organizations on an unpaid basis, either for a short reference period or for a longer one. Such persons may be subdivided either according to types of services provided or according to type of recipient. (United Nations. 2008. Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses. Revision 2. New York. p. 166.)

The standard for Unpaid housework is compatible with the recommendations for the concept of Unpaid service. Unpaid housework can be classified by the recipient of Unpaid service (own household and other households) and by the amount of hours of Unpaid service.


  • 'Number of hours of activity' is expressed in hours ranging from 0 to the maximum number on the data file. Hours may be expressed to 2 significant digits after the decimal. October 23, 2009 to current


Relation to previous version

  • Unpaid housework by person October 23, 2009 to current

    This is the current standard.

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