Unpaid Work – If it’s not measureable, it’s not observable

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In May earlier this year, the Canberra Times published an article that stated nearly 1200 pre-eminent social researchers, Academics and feminists were reported to have signed a petition, calling upon the Government to reverse funding cuts to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. These reduce in funding had lead the ABS to cut the frequency of a survey into how women, carers and volunteers contribute to the wealth and well being of the nation.

The survey is described as the only evidence gathered to measure the millions of unpaid hours by men and women in Australian households that offer their time for voluntary work and support in our communities. It is a survey used to inform Government policy about issues such as parental leave, childcare, superannuation and work life balance.

The last survey occurred in 2006 and as a result of the decision to abandon the 2013 survey, data will not be collected again until 2019.

The implications of this decision may be far reaching as many other bodies and authors depend upon this research for their own studies.   To accurately measure the real and significant contributions made by particularly women in the unpaid work force is essential to gain greater recognition of such.  In our world where financial and economic literacy is higher than ever before, putting a dollar value on this work is one way of ensuring it has meaning and is granted due respect and recognition.

A Change.org petition has been directed to the Senate to restore funding for the ABS and to restore the Work Life and Family Survey (WoLFS).

There is a risk that if something is not measureable, it is not observable.  No other contribution to the wellbeing of our society is as important, and yet no other is so commonly taken for granted.

Di Simpson is a Director at Dobinson Davey Clifford Simpson Family Law Specialists, 18 Kendall Lane, New Acton, Canberra ACT 2601 and can be contacted on (02) 6212 7600.