Women do most of the world's work: They are childbearers and house-keepers. They serve as volunteers. In developing countries, they are often farmers and weavers. For many of them, these tasks are done in addition to full-time paying jobs. Yet the work of women goes largely uncounted in national income accounts, a standard measure of economic activity in a country. The reason is that it is outside the ``market'' economy; there is no cash transaction, thus it remains largely unmeasured.
Fairness is not the only issue. Leaving out the so-called ``informal'' economy - including subsistence farming and production for barter - hides production under a statistical cloak of lassitude.
It also hinders efforts to treat women equally under the law. ``Unequal treatment for men and women in employment and remuneration and the participation of women in development,'' a report of the United Nations Statistical Office concluded last year, ``cannot be properly judged unless they have been adequately measured.''
The office will propose new guidelines for including the informal economy in national income accounts when it makes its recommendations next year. These guidelines will involve ``satellite'' accounts, however, rather than the ``core'' accounts upon which nations base their economic planning.