Past Events

Valuing Homemakers, by Professor Euston Quah

Valuing Homemakers, by Professor Euston Quah

The Speaker: Professor Euston Quah – Albert Winsemius Chair Professor of Economics, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
The Moderator: Ms. Yeong Pey Jung – Research Projects Advisor and Senior Analyst, Penang Institute

Date: 8 January 2024, Monday
Time: 4.00pm – 5.30pm
Venue: Penang Institute, 10 Brown Road, 10350 George Town
NOTE: Entrance to this event is free


Housework remains predominantly undertaken by females, even as resistance persists towards measuring household production. Nevertheless, the need to measure household production is important for various reasons: it can provide insights in resolving work and family conflicts caused by unequal involvement in household chores; understanding the gender gap in housework contribution allows policy makers to influence labour force participation rates of men and women in an informed manner; recognising the economic contribution of women in households and in society has important implications on litigations and legal disputes over compensation for wrongful injury or death of a homemaker; it guides a fairer distribution of matrimonial property assets; and provides a better basis for inter-temporal growth calculations, for international comparisons of national income, and total economic production and social welfare of a country.

In this talk, Professor Euston Quah, the Albert Winsemius Chair Professor of Economics at Nanyang Technological University, will review the literature on household production valuation, highlight trends, and outline the methodologies used in the subject. Reporting on some new studies and using real life cases to illustrate the importance and relevance of measuring and valuing home production, Quah will also discuss how the role of homemakers could be recognised more formally; and if remuneration be given, on what basis could this be done? Valuing homemakers’ contributions, Professor Quah will argue, remains as important as ever, if not more.

Biography of the Speaker:

Professor Quah is Albert Winsemius Chair Professor of Economics at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, and Director of the Economic Growth Centre (EGC). Throughout his career, Quah has been in various leadership or advisory positions of important national and international public and private sector bodies. In addition to NTU, these include the National University of Singapore (NUS), the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore, the Board of the Market Surveillance and Compliance Committee of the Energy Market Company, the Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC), the Economic Society of Singapore, the Singapore Medical Council’s Complaints Committee, and the Medical Ethics Board. Outside Singapore, he has held advisory, consultancy, and leadership roles at the Asian Development Bank, Canada’s International Development Research Council and the Canadian International Development Agency, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Overseas Development Institute of London. In Malaysia, Professor Quah is Distinguished Fellow at the Penang Institute, and has served as external economics reviewer to the economics programmes at the University of Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia, and Universiti Putra Malaysia.

A prolific and well-cited writer, Professor Quah has published over 100 articles in journals and lead opinion pieces in the media, and written over 20 books with publishers such as Routledge, McGraw-Hill, Edward Elgar, Springer Nature, Prentice-Hall, and Cengage. His books include the bestselling Asian edition of Principles of Economics (2021) and Cost-Benefit Analysis (2021). He is also Editor at the Singapore Economic Review, and a member of the prestigious European Academy of Sciences and Arts.
In 2020, Quah was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Silver) during Singapore’s National Day Honours Awards for his contributions to Singapore.

Biography of the moderator:

Yeong Pey Jung holds a Masters in Business from Swinburne University of Technology and a double degree in Arts (Psychology & Political Science) and Commerce (Economics) from University of Melbourne. Her main research work includes gender equality, minority marginalization and socio-economic issues in youth development. Other research interests include the Malaysia NEP, affirmative action in a welfare state, and the politics of international trade.


View the slides HERE.


Penang Institute hosted Professor Euston Quah for a talk and discussion on measuring household production and valuing homemakers on the 8th of January, 2023.

Professor Quah started the talk by acknowledging the contribution of women to the household, as majority of domestic work and care work are undertaken by women. Being that household production is a huge component of economic growth, there is a demand to measure household production, so that the economic contribution of women in the households and the society can be recognised and duly appreciated. Additionally, the measurement of household production extends beyond enhancing income and economic welfare distribution measures for policy purposes; it also holds relevance for family law and gender equality considerations.

There are many challenges associated with the measurement of household production. The discussion delved into concerns such as data scarcity, definitional ambiguities, variations in the time-sensitivity of household chores between men and women, diminishing returns to labor, and the complexities involved in formulating an accurate valuation method.

Professor Quah then proceeded to discuss the current approaches to household production, including the output valuation method, the replacement cost method, and the efficiency-adjusted replacement cost method. He also discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each method, emphasizing the importance of time-use surveys in measuring household production.

The Q&A session posed intriguing questions regarding the opportunity cost associated with the mental and physical health of homemakers. Gender biases and stereotypes were also brought into discussion and Professor Quah emphasised how the valuation of household production could spotlight the homemaker’s (predominantly women) contributions, aiding in the formulation of policies that formally recognize their vital role.