Volunteering is good. It’s powerful. It has the capacity to bring communities closer together and subvert the exchange of skills and power under a capitalist system.
However, women do much more unpaid work than men (both household labour and unpaid organisational work). The last Statistics New Zealand Time Use survey found that:
Males and females spent a similar amount of time on all paid and unpaid work activities combined (productive activities), but most male work was paid (63 percent) and most female work was unpaid (65 percent).
However, among people aged 15+ not employed full time, women spent more time on productive activities than men (an extra 1 hour and 45 minutes a day), due to women doing much more unpaid work for their own households than men with the same labour force status.
Females spent an average 4 hours and 20 minutes a day on unpaid work; males did 2 hours and 32 minutes.
When a potentially radical activity like volunteering mirrors the status quo – women do more of it, more often – it’s not radical.
I’m disappointed and bemused that the latest request for free time and labour from women is by the Council of Trade Unions towards their Treat Her Right campaign shoot, raising nationwide awareness of the 13% gender pay imbalance.
Yes, that’s right, the CTU are asking for free labour from women to raise awareness of pay disparity. And when I questioned them on this, they responded:
But volunteering and ‘joining movements’ are one in the same. We have always given generously of ourselves and our skills, we’ve always handheld our friends and family through emotional labour, hit the streets with pamphlets, cared for our elderly, chaired meetings, hosted (and fed) fundraisers and then got up and went to our lower paid jobs afterwards. And the level of generosity and corresponding pay gap only gets higher and wider for Women of Colour.
In a perfect world we’d all do more community-based unpaid work, which in turn would go long way towards sustaining this world. But right now we can’t pay our rent with volunteering cred, so we need to stop expecting that women will keep doing it.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t keep volunteering for things we care about, but we need to stop being asked to. Because if a women’s pay equity campaign can unironically ask women to appear in an advert for free as part of a ‘movement’ which can afford a $200 job ad and a creative agency, but nothing for the women giving their time and creativity, then we’ve gone too far.