Valuing Non-market Work

By Nancy Folbre

The unpaid time that people devote to the care of family, friends and neighbours clearly contributes to economic living standards, social well-being and the development of human capabilities. The rapid proliferation of nationally representative time-use surveys has revealed the quantitative dimensions of unpaid care and the disproportionate burden it places on women in countries at all levels of development. It is difficult to estimate the market value of non-market work, and it is important to remember that not all of its contributions can be measured in market terms. Estimates of its monetary value, however, like efforts to estimate the value of unpriced environmental assets and services, can provide important insights. They can show that market transactions represent only a subset of all the goods and services we rely upon, even when the value of those goods and services is measured in purely monetary terms. In this sense, they can turn the logic of the market against itself, demonstrating its reliance on non-market services.