The perceived value of women's unpaid work : as experienced by eight New Zealand women born between 1922 and 1946 : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Women's Studies at Massey University

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At some time in their lives, most New Zealand women have undertaken unpaid work either in the home or in the community. Much of women's unpaid work is concerned with caring and nurturing. Women undertake the major share of child rearing, caring for sick and elderly relatives both within the home and in the community and emotional work within their family. Women also undertake most of the unpaid household maintenance in the home, from domestic labour to decision making and budgeting. Many women act as helpmeet to their husbands in support of their careers. A large proportion of women's unpaid work is connected with both informal and formal voluntary work in the community. There is no question that this work is valuable, as it is critical to the New Zealand economy. However, many women believe that this work is not always valued by male partners, government policy makers, and in some cases, the women themselves. In certain contexts, this work is valued more than in others. And at certain periods of time this work has been valued more than at other times. The method chosen for this research was a modified form of the grounded theory approach developed by Glaser and Strauss, as outlined by Kirby and McKenna (1989). The data was collected by conducting qualitative interviews with eight New Zealand women between fifty and seventy years of age. The interviewees were encouraged to relate their experiences of unpaid work and to reflect on their mothers' and daughters' experiences of unpaid work. The women in this study had much in common, in that they had all been married, had adult children, and had undertaken a variety of unpaid work both within the home and in the community. However, along with the commonalities, there were differences. Six of the women were Pakeha and two were Maori. The twenty year age range among the women, meant that they experienced different economic and historical events. Some of the women came from a higher than average socio-economic level than others and some married into a higher socio-economic level. The thesis records the interviewees' experiences of unpaid work in their own words, and analyses the data in order to discover whether this work is valued, by whom, in what context, and how over time the evaluation of this work has changed. This study seeks to show how women's experiences of unpaid work, both in the home and in the community, have been valued, by whom, in what context and whether this evaluation has changed over time. Four specific areas are explored - the expectation that women will carry out the major proportion of unpaid work in the home and in the community - monetary reward for work compared with unpaid work - the sharing of unpaid work either in the home or in the community - and status gained through unpaid work. Because these women reflect on their own mothers' and daughters' experiences of unpaid work, it is possible to identify the changes which have occurred over this time, in the evaluation of women's unpaid work.
Housewives, Women volunteers, Middle-aged women, Unpaid work, Voluntary work