Prospera has contributed to a study that confirmed gender gaps in unpaid work and refined methods to be used for future data collection.

Improving women’s opportunities to participate in paid work can have major positive implications for gender equality and for the economy.

The identical participation of women and men in the economy would increase global gross domestic product in 2025 by 26% or USD 28 trillion, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

But there is no switch that can be flicked to increase women’s participation in paid work. Improving equality and inclusion requires long-term change and a better understanding of the reasons for power imbalances and inequities.

A key area is the disproportionate responsibility women take for unpaid care and household work and the impact of this on their ability to undertake paid employment.

Reliable data on agency in time-use decisions can be used to prioritise investments, design programs and assess progress toward gender equality.

In October and November 2022, Prospera, Investing in Women and Universitas Indonesia led a study that shed light on the factors that influence women’s ability to make choices about time use.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and UN Women also contributed to the research and the soon-to-be-released report, Time use, supervisory care and women’s agency in urban Indonesia, which included 452 people from 226 randomly selected couples in greater Jakarta and Surabaya.

Keeping time
Participants recorded time use for one 24-hour day using the ILO-developed light time-use diary and answered questions about their activities over the same period.

The diary measured dimensions of unpaid care work, including supervisory care – the time a person is available to provide active care for a child or a dependent adult should the need arise.

Taking into account time spent on paid work and unpaid domestic and care work, the study found that women on average worked longer hours than men.

Women dedicate almost three times more hours than men to unpaid domestic work but 1.5 times fewer hours to employment activities. They also assume more responsibility for the care of dependent children or elderly family members.

In addition to tracking time use, the participants completed a questionnaire so that researchers could gauge their attitudes to time use and ability to define and pursue time-use goals.

The results showed that while men and women were confident to allocate their time, there were differences in their ability to adjust schedules.

Men felt they had less agency to decide on their time use because most were in paid employment with less flexible work schedules. A larger share of women could change their daily schedule but were less able to reach out for help for domestic and caregiving responsibilities.

Women had more agency in allocating time to household and caregiving activities, but less when it came to deciding to work for pay. This was especially the case among less educated women who tended to adhere to gendered household work allocations.

While many participants – women and men – agreed with the norm that men provide for the family and women are responsible for household work, a larger share of women disagreed with this view or thought that women could work as the main earners.

Men with higher education levels were more likely to have a favourable attitude to women being employed in paid positions.

Up for negotiation
Couples also took part in an experiment that asked how much time they would allocate to themselves and their spouse to attend a training program to improve their income-earning potential.

The experiment aimed to understand whether their time allocation might vary depending on three scenarios: whether one spouse made the decision privately, one spouse shared information with the other, or both spouses negotiated with each other about the time to put in.

Couples who negotiated time use were more likely to overcome gender norms and assumptions and the preferred hours of training for both men and women were generally higher.

The time use survey confirmed that gender gaps in unpaid care and domestic work leave women with less time to pursue paid work.

The questionnaire and experiment revealed these disparities stem from ingrained perceptions of gender roles, but also indicated that education and negotiation can be instrumental in transforming these norms.

Embracing equality
Prospera’s head of GEDSI, Bimbika Sijapati Basnett, said the study would provide tools for further research and direction for policy and program development.

“The initiative will support Statistics Indonesia (BPS) to develop methods, tools and guidelines to produce time-use statistics more efficiently,” she said.

“We hope the pilot will help to test and refine instruments that BPS can use to collect reliable time-use data through its future labour force surveys (Sakernas).”

Ms Sijapati Basnett also said the research highlighted the need for unpaid work to be considered by programs that support women in the paid labour market.

“Encouraging labour force participation alone ignores the critical role women play in the unpaid economy, especially as caregivers,” she said.

“Education and care infrastructure are important investments for changing attitudes on gender roles and supporting the participation of caregivers, who often face the dual responsibilities of managing care work and employment.

“We need to value unpaid work and raise awareness of domestic and care work as shared responsibilities to achieve gender equality, drive productivity and build an inclusive economy.”

Prospera is now collaborating with the ILO and UN Women to repeat the study in rural areas – the data collection phase has been completed. The partners will soon hold a workshop to share time-use instruments with BPS, provide recommendations for necessary refinements and discuss how to put them into practice.


What can time use tell us about lifting female labour participation in Indonesia? Measuring time use, care and women’s agency
Download PDF (6 pages, 793kb)

Full report

Piloting the Measurement of Time Use, Supervisory Care and Women’s Agency in Indonesia
Download PDF (120 pages, 2.6 mb)


Bimbika Sijapati Basnett, Head of GEDSI, Prospera: