Girls spend 40 percent more time on chores than boys globally

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Girls under 15 years old spend 40 percent - or 160 million hours - more than boys their age on household chores every day globally, according to arecent UNICEF study.

Domestic work like cooking, cleaning, caring for family members and collecting water and firewood falls disproportionately on the shoulders of girls, who spend 550 million hours a day globally on these tasks. The work is often undervalued and less visible.

One round trip to collect water takes an average of about 33 minutes in rural sub-Sahara Africa, taking girls away from play, socialization or study time. Girls risk injury and exposure to sexual violence when walking to collect water.

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Michelle Obama on educating young girls, "Let Girls Learn"
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Michelle Obama on educating young girls, "Let Girls Learn"
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: US First Lady Michelle Obama gestures with her hand outstretched as she speaks to students as part of the 'Let Girls Learn Initiative' at the Mulberry School for Girls on June 16, 2015 in London, England. The US First Lady is travelling with her daughters, Malia and Sasha and her mother, Mrs. Marian Robinson, to continue a global tour promoting her 'Let Girls Learn Initiative'. The event at the school was to discuss how the UK and USA are working together to expand girl's education around the world. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: US First Lady Michelle Obama gestures and holds flowers as she is received by young students holding the American flag in the courtyard before an event as part of the 'Let Girls Learn Initiative' at the Mulberry School for Girls on June 16, 2015 in London, England. The US First Lady is travelling with her daughters, Malia and Sasha and her mother, Mrs. Marian Robinson, to continue a global tour promoting her 'Let Girls Learn Initiative'. The event at the school was to discuss how the UK and USA are working together to expand girl's education around the world. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
US First Lady Michelle Obama (3R) watches an interpretive dance performance during a welcome for her arrival at Mulberry School for Girls during a visit as part of the US government's 'Let Girls Learn' initiative in east London on June 16, 2015. On the first full day of a visit to Britain the US First Lady met with local students in east London and discussed how Britain and the US are working together in order to attempt to expand access to adolescent girls' education around the world. While in London, the First Lady will also host a roundtable meeting on Let Girls Learn, and meet with British Prime Minister Cameron, Samatha Cameron, and Prince Harry. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: US First Lady Michelle Obama crosses her hands on her chest as she speaks to students as part of the 'Let Girls Learn Initiative' at the Mulberry School for Girls on June 16, 2015 in London, England. The US First Lady is travelling with her daughters, Malia and Sasha and her mother, Mrs. Marian Robinson, to continue a global tour promoting her 'Let Girls Learn Initiative'. The event at the school was to discuss how the UK and USA are working together to expand girl's education around the world. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
US First Lady Michelle Obama (C) reacts as she watches an interpretive dance performance during a welcome for her arrival at Mulberry School for Girls during a visit as part of the US government's 'Let Girls Learn' initiative in east London on June 16, 2015. On the first full day of a visit to Britain the US First Lady met with local students in east London and discussed how Britain and the US are working together in order to attempt to expand access to adolescent girls' education around the world. While in London, the First Lady will also host a roundtable meeting on Let Girls Learn, and meet with British Prime Minister Cameron, Samatha Cameron, and Prince Harry. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: US First Lady Michelle Obama (C) sits between The UK Department of International Development's Justine Greening and (L) returned Peace Corps Volunteer Bina Contreras (R) during a 'Let Girls Learn' meeting as part of the 'Let Girls Learn Initiative' at the Mulberry School for Girls on June 16, 2015 in London, England. The US First Lady is travelling with her daughters, Malia and Sasha and her mother, Mrs. Marian Robinson, to continue a global tour promoting her 'Let Girls Learn Initiative'. The event at the school was to discuss how the UK and USA are working together to expand girl's education around the world. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: First Lady Michelle Obama arrives at Stanstead airport for a visit to London on June 15, 2015 in London, England. The First Lady is travelling to London with her daughters, Malia and Sasha and her mother, Mrs. Marian Robinson, to continue a global tour promoting her Let Girls Learn Initiative. During the visit she will meet with students at a girl's school to discuss how the UK and U.S. are working together to expand girl's education around the world. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 03: U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama (R) and President Barack Obama announce a new government-wide coordinated strategy to help millions of girls around the world attend and stay school called 'Let Girls Learn' in the East Room of the White House March 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. Saying that she will focus on this program beyond her time in the White House, Michelle Obama will soon travel to Japan and Cambodia to promoted the new initiative. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - MARCH 21: First lady Michelle Obama hugs a U.S. Peace Corp volunteer as she leaves the Sofitel Hotel on March 21, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Mrs. Obama visited U.S. Peace Corps volunteers as part of a two-nation trip to promote the U.S. government's Let Girls Learn initiative. Cambodia is one of 11 countries where the initiative has been implemented. (Photo by Nicolas Axelrod/Getty Images)
(Photo via Plan International)
(Photo via Plan International)
(Photo via Plan International)
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As children grow older, the gap widens. Of children between 5 and 9 years old, girls spend 30 percent more time - or 40 million more hours - than boys on domestic chores every day, while 10-to-14-year-old girls tackle 50 percent more (or 120 million more hours) a day than boys their age. Boys are more likely to be involved in economic activities, the report said.

"The overburden of unpaid household work begins in early childhood and intensifies as girls reach adolescence," UNICEF's Principal Gender Advisor Anju Malhotra said. "As a result, girls sacrifice important opportunities to learn, grow, and just enjoy their childhood. This unequal distribution of labour among children also perpetuates gender stereotypes and the double-burden on women and girls across generations."

The countries with the largest gaps are Yemen, Burkina Faso and Somalia, where 10-to-14-year-old girls spend an average of 26 hours a week on domestic work.

There are nearly 2 billion children in the world under the age of 15, most of whom live in developing countries. Of the 1.1 billion girls under 18, about 75 percent live in Asia or Africa, and the number of girls in Africa is expected to grow by 30 percent by 2030.

The gendered distribution of chores can affect girls' potential and self-esteem when it socializes them into thinking girls and women are only suited for domestic work, the study said, with future ramifications apparent. In Zimbabwe, 81 percent of girls have had to drop out of school either temporarily or permanently at some point.

The undue burden of chores contributes to why so many girls are forced to drop out of school in developing countries. Other factors include child marriage and pregnancy, poverty and a lack of access to sanitary and private bathrooms.

Girls and boys have reached gender parity in primary schools in more than 66 percent of countries, but less than 50 percent have reached parity in secondary education. In West and Central Africa, 79 girls are enrolled in secondary school for every 100 boys.

In Tanzania, a study showed that school attendance increased 12 percent when water was available within 15 minutes compared with more than half an hour.

"Quantifying the challenges girls face is the first critical step towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality and breaking down barriers that confront the world's 1.1 billion girls," said UNICEF Chief of Data and Analytics Attila Hancioglu.

Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report

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