Nury Sojo, from the Caribbean-slope town of Siquirres, said her workday begins at 5:30 a.m. every day and ends at 9 p.m. She does not receive a salary.
Sojo, a 39-year-old housewife and mother of two boys, admits she feels frustrated by her situation.
Every day, while her partner works outside their home to bring in their income, she stays in to cook, clean, iron and perform other chores.
“The situation (in Costa Rica) is lamentable. Women are like unpaid maids,” she told The Tico Times in an interview in downtown San José.
Like Sojo, many Ticas slave away longer hours than men on domestic duties, according to a study released last week by a group of government organizations. And perhaps to no ones surprise, more men than women earn wages working outside the home.
The study, headed by the National Women’s Institute (INAMU), concludes that a “significant gap exists between men and women” in terms of the amount of unpaid domestic duties they perform.
While women dedicate an average of approximately five hours and 14 minutes per day to these tasks, men spend an average of one hour and 23 minutes on them, the study found.
Also, only 23 in every 100 Ticos perform any home duties such as washing, ironing, cooking and cleaning, compared to 81 in every 100 Ticas who do these chores.
“There are men who don’t even know how to fry an egg…but we have to ease the burden on women,” said raffle ticket salesman Nelson Gutiérrez, 47.
Married women spend an average of almost seven hours on domestic work, while single women dedicate an average of three hours to these chores, said Irma Sandoval, director of the Universidad Nacional’s Institute of Social Studies in Population (IDESPO), one of the institutions that participated in the study. Sandoval jokingly recommended that women try to stay single.
“I used to work less when I was single,” secretary Ana Rita Hernández, 41, told The Tico Times.
Sandoval explained that the average time men spend on housework does not vary significantly between married and single men, who each do an average of more than one hour of housework per day.
The study also revealed that while approximately 63 of every 100 men work or are seeking work, only 24 out of each 100 women do the same.While men work or job-hunt for an average of six hours and 50 minutes per day, women do the same for an average four hours and three minutes each day.
Women who work outside the home also tend to spend longer hours on domestic duties than men who work outside the home.
On average they spend more than four hours on housework, while working males spend more than two hours.
“The gender difference between men and women translates into social inequality and gender discrimination,” Jeannette Carrillo, executive president of the National Women’s Institute (INAMU), told journalists at a press conference in San José Nov. 22.
Lawyer Mainor Vásquez, 36, told The Tico Times he does not contribute to domestic duties because his mother, who does not work outside the home, takes care of all the household chores.
“I think there is gender discrimination (in Costa Rica). The overload of work on women, who work outside the home too, is another form of discrimination,” he said.
Carrillo pointed out that having a study to confirm this inequality is a beneficial first step in overcoming it.
“This is a fundamental step in generating public policy designated for gender equality,” she said.
INAMU has been reviewing Costa Rican legislation on day care this year to determine the government’s and private sector’s responsibility in providing this service so that women can dedicate less time to home duties (TT, Oct. 20).
The IDESPO study was carried out in July and August 2004, and was released as part of a series of activities in honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women celebrated Nov. 25 (see separate article).
According to Rocío Chaves, coordinator of the Inter-institutional Committee for the Study of Feminine Work, the committee of government organizations that conducted the study, it took a long time for them to release their work because they had limited resources, including staff and funds, to carry it out.
Also, this was the first time a study analyzing this issue was performed, said Chaves, a specialist in gender and work at INAMU.
Other members of the committee included the National Statistics and Census Institute (INEC), the Ministry of Planning, the Center ofWomen’s Studies of the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.
The study was conducted as a series of questions about the activities performed the day before addressed to a total 32,437 Costa Rican men and women ages 12 and above.