Understanding the Unpaid Economy – Price Waterhouse Cooper

Why is it that a mother caring for her children produces no ‘measured’ economic value, but the same mother hiring others to look after her children does?

The answer stems from our narrow measurements of ‘economic activity’, which currently only captures activities for which people are paid. Unpaid work is excluded but we intuitively know that this work generates great value to society: from the raising of children, caring for the sick or elderly through to volunteering. We have generated a more holistic and contemporary understanding of the Australian economy by measuring all productive activity, both paid and unpaid. We have done this from the ground up, estimating the value of unpaid activities across 2,214 locations to understand where Australia’s largest unpaid economies are located and the factors that shape them.

Key findings:

  • If the total economy includes a conservative estimate of the value of unpaid work then it is a third bigger than formal measurements.
  • The value of unpaid childcare makes it Australia’s largest industry, larger than any in the formal economy.
  • Women are significantly over-represented in the unpaid economy, accounting for almost three quarters of all unpaid work.


  • It is important to begin to measure this unpaid work and highlight its importance.
  • In particular, it is important to understand the gender split of unpaid work and how it is impacting on female workforce participation.
  • Once we understand the unpaid economy, we can give it appropriate weight in policy and investment decisions, outside of the traditional understanding of maximising economic returns.

SOURCE: “Understanding the Unpaid Economy.” PwC Economics and Policy, March 2017

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BroCAP is produced by the two librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia.


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