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Time-use data in Senegal spur advocacy, policy and programme revisions
Photo: Vincent Tremeau / World Bank
Photo: Vincent Tremeau / World Bank

How women and men spend their time – including how much of it they devote to paid versus unpaid work – can yield important insights for economic development. But many countries have never been able to measure this through a proper statistical survey. Until recently, this was the case for Senegal. But the findings of its first-ever time-use survey (TUS) are now galvanizing advocacy by women’s groups, prompting revisions of government policies and programmes, and enabling the value of women’s unpaid work to be estimated for the first time.

Conducted by Senegal’s National Statistical Office (ANSD) in 2021, with technical and financial support from UN Women, the findings were published and disseminated among policymakers in 2022. Among its key findings were that 90% of women devote their time to unpaid care and domestic work compared to 54% of men, while 50% of men do paid work versus just 31% of women. On average, women devote 5 hours a day to unpaid work, compared to 2 hours for men – 2.5 times more time.

Data to policy action

According to Astou Diouf Gueye, Director of Equity and Gender Equality for the Ministry of Women, Family and Child Protection (MFFPE), such findings have spurred them to reconsider certain policies: “We’ve had a women’s empowerment policy for a long time. But the TUS results made us see that aspects of the policy need to be improved. … We realized the need to amplify the policy, integrating [time-use] aspects to correct its imperfections.”

She says the MFFPE is also reflecting on how to adapt projects such as their Women’s Work Reduction Programme, to integrate more modern tools, like solar energy, as well as childcare and other means to reduce unpaid care work and has discussed a potential new programme with UN Women to reduce the burden of women’s unpaid work.

Diouf Gueye adds that the TUS made the MFFPE ponder what is blocking women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship. The results were submitted to the Head of State, who decided to create a Women’s Empowerment Directorate within the MFFPE, effective 12 April 2023. The new Directorate will lead the revision of related policies and programmes, using the TUS and other inputs.

The MFFPE has even produced its first-ever statistical bulletin to communicate the TUS findings more simply and with a wider audience. Published in 2023, it also includes data from other Women Count-funded publications, such as on women’s leadership in entrepreneurship, and the effects of unpaid work on women’s political leadership.

Senegal’s 2022 Voluntary National Review also included data on the proportion of unpaid work (SDG indicator 5.4) for the first time, thanks to these data now being available.

“We believe that if women are more liberated in their homes, this will allow them to obtain levels of political leadership, but also to contribute more to the economy because they will have the necessary time … and this will naturally strengthen their social power,” explains Diouf Gueye.

The National Network of Working Women of Senegal (RENAFES) also used TUS data at an advocacy event on 27 April 2023, attended by the MFFPE, the Ministry of Labour, employers and labour unions, to argue for the adoption of a decree to enact a Law on the Protection of Pregnant and Breastfeeding Working Women.* Officials present vowed to create a dedicated Working Group on the issue.

New estimates of the value of women’s unpaid work

Unpaid care and domestic work are not normally reflected in Systems of National Accounts (SNA). Nevertheless, household satellite accounts based on TUS data can measure and place a value on this work, making it more visible on the policy agenda. After the launch of Senegal’s TUS, ANSD was asked to create one.

Published in April 2023, Senegal’s first-ever Household Satellite Account, with the support of UN Women, estimates the value of productive activities not currently measured by the SNA at XOF 7.6 billion (USD 12.5 billion), with unpaid work accounting for the bulk of those activities (88.8%). The added value of such work is also estimated – at XOF 2.5 billion (USD 4.1 billion), or 16.3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – with women’s unpaid care and domestic work specifically accounting for 13.9% of GDP.

According to Sadio Kanouté, Head of the Gender Statistics Management Unit at MFFPE, “We’ve followed it with great interest and the results have awakened us because an added value of women’s productive activities … of 13.9% of GDP is not negligible. Obviously, these findings will reinforce our arguments, our advocacy, on recognizing women’s work. … We have to start by creating change through laws that force stakeholders to reflect on this situation.”

The findings have garnered widespread governmental attention. Alle Nar Diop, Secretary-General of the Ministry of the Economy, says his Ministry is planning workshops to examine what interventions could be introduced to allow women to reallocate their time.

“If time can be reallocated in favour of income-generating activities, then people’s incomes could certainly be much higher and this increase in income could also make it possible to resolve forms of poverty,” explains Diop. “Now it will obviously be necessary to put in place certain policies, activities and projects.”

South-South cooperation

Senegal also learned from Morocco’s experience in preparing its satellite account.

“It was very interesting to see how Morocco approached their methodological calculation; how they dealt with missing data; how they estimated some indicators, like the salary for the informal sector; and we discussed what would be best for Senegal,” says Mahmouth Diouf, UN Women Senegal Gender Statistics Expert.

Senegal has also since shared its experiences with UN Women staff and National Statistical Offices from Nigeria and Liberia, and is poised to do the same with Morocco as well. As a result, Diouf says Nigeria reconsidered its initial plan to use a seven-day time-use recall period, opting for a three-day recall instead.

*The Government of Senegal adopted the law in April 2022, but it cannot come into effect without an enacting decree.

Written By:
Jen Ross
Jen Ross

Jen Ross is a Chilean-Canadian journalist with more than 20 years of experience, including 10 on staff with the UN (ECLAC, OHCHR and UN Women). She is now based in Aruba, where she has written her first works of fiction, lectures at the University of Aruba, and consults as a writer, editor and translator for UN Women and other clients.

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