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Have your say on land expropriation in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA (Times Live) – The parliamentary committee that will review section 25 of the constitution, which deals with property, has invited the public to participate in the debate.

The ruling African National Congress wants the hotly debated issue of expropriation of land without compensation to be included in the Expropriation Bill.

The bill has been passed back and forth between the Presidency and parliament for the past decade. For it to pave the way for the government to seize land without compensation, it has to be updated to bolster the principle.

Although the constitution already allows for land expropriation without compensation if it is “just and equitable”, an updated bill signed into law would be the first amendment made so far to the Bill of Rights.

The parliamentary committee that will review section 25 of the constitution, which deals with property, has invited the public to participate in the debate through a series of hearings and by engaging the committee.

Its chairperson, Vincent Smith, said in an interview with the Parliamentary Monitoring Group last week that the committee wanted all South Africans “to feel free to come and give their views and to be tolerant enough to allow those who have different views to air their views”.

Having taken into account what ordinary South Africans, policy-makers, civil society organisations and academics say about the issue, the committee will then make recommendations to parliament, in the form of constitutional amendments. It has been given a deadline of August 30 2018 to deliver its recommendations.

Now, civic technology organisation OpenUp has designed an online tool – developed in partnership with the Parliamentary Monitoring Group – that makes it easy for anyone to make their voice heard on this critical issue.

The tool presents a series of questions to users. These questions should take no longer than five minutes to answer. Once the questionnaire has been completed, it is automatically submitted to the committee via email.

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Kerry Logistics expands presence in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA (Air Cargo World) – Hong-Kong based 3PL Kerry Logistics has acquired the services of South African forwarding and logistics company, Shipping and Airfreight Services (SAS), to help expand its presence on the African continent.

Kerry Logistics will utilize SAS for its air- and ocean-freight shipment, consolidation, charter, warehousing and distribution services as it pursues its goal to “expand its coverage worldwide.”

“South Africa’s economy has an important standing on the African continent, with excellent trade lanes not only to the Chinese market but also the large exporting economies of the European Union,” said Thomas Blank, Kerry Logistics’ managing director for the European region.

Over the last two years, Kerry Logistics has been expanding its services in Europe and Asia. In July of 2017, it acquired a 50 percent stake in intermodal brokerage company, Lanzhou Pacific Logistics (LPL), servicing Asia and Eastern Europe, and underpinning its role in the One Belt, One Road initiative – the project forwarded by the Chinese government to promote trade connectivity between Eurasian countries.

The company cites South Africa’s growth in automotive production, which accounts for 10 percent of South Africa’s manufacturing exports, as a driving factor behind the decision to partner with SAS.

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These are the most complained about insurance products in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA (businesstech.co.za) – The Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance (OSTI) recently published its annual report for 2017, revealing the most complained about short-term insurers, and the types of insurance vehicles in South Africa that receive the most complaints.

During 2017, the ombud said it finalised a total of 9,962 formal complaints, with an average turn-around time of 131 days.

It said that it fielded nearly 80,000 calls and recovered a total of R87.1 million for consumers, down from R99 million recovered in the prior year from 8,631 cases closed.

The OSTI noted that the bulk of complaints were received in the motor insurance sector, making up nearly half (49.3%) of all complaints, up marginally from previous years.

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The insurance body said that 74% of complaints in the motoring sector were for ‘accidental damage’.

Worryingly, this figure mainly comprised claims rejected on the grounds that the insured was driving under the influence of alcohol. The ombud noted that some insurance companies have introduced measures such as the ‘take me home’ service to manage the risk associated with drunken driving.

“However, it is clear from this year’s statistics, that DUI remains a very real problem for the South African insurance industry,” it said.

The second highest cause for complaints was rejections based on a policyholder’s alleged misrepresentation of underwriting details at sales stage.

Examples include misrepresentations about regular driver details, previous insurance and claims history, credit history, security devices and whether the vehicle would be used for personal or business use, the ombud said.

A significant number of complaints related to rejections based on the policyholder’s obligation to excersise due care and to prevent loss, it said. When the ombudsman assesses disputes of this nature it requires that there be a causal connection between the insured’s conduct and the accident.

Complaints relating to quantum (value) disputes were also high, it said. “These disputes frequently relate to the settlement calculation in respect of a total loss claim, that is, when the vehicle has been stolen or written off. The settlement calculation may result in a shortfall where the vehicle is financed.”

Warranty and mechanical breakdown claims comprised 9% of complaints considered by OSTI in 2017. “We have noticed that the cause of these disputes often arose from the insurer’s advice provided as sales stage,” the OSTI said.

Homeowner claims

For homeowners claims, the OSTI said that given the extreme weather conditions experienced in 2017, complaints largely related to acts of nature.

“The primary cause for complaint was the dissatisfaction with the rejection of claims on the grounds of damage arising from gradual deterioration, maintenance, wear and tear, which is not the responsibility of the insurer to remedy, it said.

“In general, the Ombudsman will assess these matters by asking whether the loss or damage would have occurred if the property had been properly maintained. If it clearly would have occurred even if the property had been adequately maintained the Ombudsman will usually uphold the claim.”

The secondary cause for a complaint under homeowner’s claims related to quantum disputes – the most prevalent being the settlement calculation in circumstances where the policyholder was underinsured.

There were also a significant number of complaints relating to rejections on the basis that no insured event occurred, the watchdog said.

Under household content claims, theft and burglary claims comprised 73% of formal complaints considered by the OSTI in 2017.

73% – theft and burglary claims
7% – acts of nature
6% – accidental damage
5% – power surges
It said it also considered non-claim related policy complaints such as policy cancellations, premium refunds and instances where the insurer has not complied with its obligations.

“Our statistics reflect an increasing number of complaints relating to mobile device insurance claims at 29%, legal expenses cover at 4.3% and hospital plans at 5%. Again, we often find that these disputes stem from the quality of the communication that takes place at sales stage.”

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Bruce Whitfield: South Africa, let’s talk Turkey

The good news is that ratings agency S&P Global didn’t downgrade us deeper into junk on Friday. The bad news is that it remains sceptical about the Ramaphosa administration’s ability to transform the country’s finances sufficiently to justify a return to investment grade any time soon. Don’t let it worry you too much. There is a whole lot of really good stuff happening in the economy.
National Treasury has upgraded its growth forecast and brought it more in line with the market’s own expectations of around 2% – not enough to see meaningful change for the vast majority of South Africans who are hoping for a jobs-led miracle to help them get out of poverty – but it’s going in the right direction.

Probably South Africa’s biggest asset right now is the SA Reserve Bank. Despite many attempts, by among others the Public Protector, to undermine its legitimacy, the SA Reserve Bank succeeded in guarding its independence.

The best lesson for South Africa as to what goes wrong when politicians convince themselves that they can outwit, outmanoeuvre and outsmart markets, comes from Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sought to rewrite the Economics 101 textbook recently and has landed his country in all kinds of trouble. His electoral populism combined with recent dollar strength, which also put the rand on the back foot, saw the country come within a whisker of a fully-fledged currency crisis.

As the lira weakened, Erdogan sought to blame an amorphous “interest rate lobby” for currency weakness and said “enemies of Turkey” were lurking in the background of “currency speculators”. Sounds familiar? The logic is not dissimilar to that of the dying days of the Zuma administration and we are likely to see this kind of rhetoric in South Africa as we head to polls by April next year.

For ratings agencies like S&P, they need to see sensible, sustainable structural reforms of the economy before lifting the country from its current relegation zone.

For South Africa, still looking to recover from the consequences of the firing of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister in 2015, the slide into full-blown junk was narrowly averted in December when the ANC voted by the smallest of margins for the party to be lead by Cyril Ramaphosa rather than Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. It gave Moody’s the chance to give the country the benefit of the doubt. Had it downgraded along with S&P and Fitch, the economy would be in a far worse place right now and the country would be staring down the barrel of a recession.

SA’s core strengths

S&P does acknowledge that progress has been made: “The recent political transition and policy proposals could support firmer economic growth and stabilising public finances over the medium term”.

Unlike attempts at manipulating interest rates and the currency in Turkey, ratings agencies see South Africa’s monetary flexibility, which includes a floating exchange rate and well-developed financial markets, as core strengths.

In among the swathes of political progress made in the president’s first 100 days in power, marked on Sunday, there are worrying economic indicators. Chiefly, the level of the currency and the rising oil price – which together threaten a 70c/l petrol price increase next week. In addition to sucking money out of households pockets immediately, it will be negative for inflation months from now.

The Reserve Bank is cognisant of the risks the local economy faces.

As far as Turkey is concerned, its central bank has finally been able to react with a 300-basis point interest rate increase to bring stability to the collapse in domestic confidence there. Erdogan has previously blamed higher interest rates for rising inflation, ignoring a century of economic study which proves the opposite to be true. Its foreign debt has ballooned.

Something SA protected itself from under Trevor Manuel, when he decreed most debt should be rand-denominated to protect against currency shocks.

Bruce Whitfield is an award-winning multi-platform financial journalist and broadcaster.

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In S. Africa, a unique telescope link offers new view of stars

SOUTH AFRICA (The Hindu) – Scientists in South Africa on Friday launched the world’s first optical telescope linked to a radio telescope, combining “eyes and ears” to try to unravel the secrets of the universe.

The device forms part of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project in the remote Karoo desert, which will be the world’s most powerful radio telescope system.

The latest move combines the new optical telescope MeerLITCH — Dutch for ‘more light’ — with the recently-completed 64-dish MeerKAT radio telescope, located 200 kilometres away.

“We are listening and looking at the sky at the same time — that is a completely novel concept in astronomy worldwide,” said Paul Groot, from Radboud university in the Netherlands. “This is the eye, with the MeerKAT being the ears as a radio telescope. It is fantastic to see what amazing views it produces.”

Astronomers have previously had to wait for a cosmic incident to be picked up by a radio telescope and then carry out optic observations afterwards.

But combining MeerLITCH, in the small town of Sutherland, with MeerKAT, also in the sparsely-populated North Cape province, will allow simultaneous study of cosmic events as they occur.

The project has been six years in the making by a joint-team of South African, Dutch and British scientists.

“It is the first time you have a telescope that will track a radio telescope so that if there are discoveries that are made, you will be able to follow up,” Phil Mjwara, director general in the South African ministry of Science and Technology, told reporters.

The optical telescope, built in the Netherlands and shipped to South Africa, uses a main mirror just 65 cm in diameter and a single 100 megapixel detector measuring 10 cm x 10 cm.

Ideal location

It is housed in a white dome-shaped building made of carbon fibre to protect it against temperature fluctuations in the Karoo desert, which was chosen for its clear skies, dry climate and lack of pollution.

Among the priorities for MeerLICHT, which cost about $1.1 million, is the study of black holes, neutron stars and stellar explosions, which must be scrutinised quickly before they fade away.

“The study of exploding stars across the universe will gain a whole new dimension,” said University of Cape Town professor Patrick Woudt, a senior scientist working on the telescope.

MeerLICHT boasts of a huge field of view that allows astronomers to see an area 13 times the size of the full moon in exquisite detail, and pick up objects one million times fainter than is possible with the human eye.

“The brilliant thing is that we are tracking at the same time with the two telescopes, so as soon as we see something in the radio we can look back in time,” said Ben Stappers, an astronomer from Manchester University.

“Flashes of radio emission known as Fast Radio Bursts may now be ‘caught in the act’. Hopefully we can finally determine the origin of these enigmatic flashes.”

When fully operational in the 2020s, the SKA will comprise a forest of 3,000 dishes spread over an area of a square kilometre across remote terrain in several countries to allow astronomers to peer into space to an unparallelled depth.

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10 of the highest paying jobs in South Africa right now

SOUTH AFRICA (BusinessTech) – Jobs portal CareerJunction has published its annual salary survey, showing how salaries vary across 10 major sectors in South Africa – and what employees can expect to earn at intermediate and senior level, including management.

The salary review is compiled exclusively for South African job seekers and the HR/Recruitment industry to give a true representation of cost-to-company salary packages.

The report provides up-to-date salary information including regional differences in monthly remuneration using actual salary offerings on CareerJunction’s website for the latest measurable period – December 2017 to May 2018.

However some high paying professions such as lawyers, with that data available in more detailed reports based on firm sizes and types. Doctor positions are not represented in the report, also regarded as a high paying profession.

According to the report, engineers remain some of the highest earners in the country, with highest earners, environmental engineers, taking home an average monthly salary of around R75,941 (R911,292 per yer).

Senior managers across a variety of sectors also earn well, with senior financial managers taking home an average salary of R67,653 a month (R811,836 a year), and senior IT managers taking home an average salary of R68,281 (R819,372 a year).

Based on its comprehensive jobs data BusinessTech looks at those positions that pay the highest salaries at the top end according to CareerJunction.

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Megaprojects to deliver houses in South Africa might not work

In 2014, the South African government announced a new direction in housing policy. The aim was to phase out smaller low cost housing projects of a few hundred units and focus exclusively on megaprojects – new settlements made of multitudes of housing units combined with a host of social amenities.

Given the uneven access to housing that resulted from apartheid, housing delivery has been a major focus of since 1994. Government’s 20 year review – 1994 to 2014 – reported that 3.7 million subsidised housing opportunities were created, undoubtedly a remarkable achievement.

Nevertheless in 2014 the then Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, became extremely concerned that house production had been falling. And, a backlog of 2.3 million families remained. The Minister favoured megaprojects (also referred to as catalytic projects) as a way of getting delivery back on track.

Large human settlement projects weren’t entirely new to South Africa. Several were already at an advanced stage of construction in 2014. What was new in this announcement was the idea that all housing would be delivered exclusively through the construction of megaprojects across the country. From 2014 to 2017, the Department of Human Settlements developed a list of 48 catalytic projects which was finalised last year.

In a recently published academic paper we argue that the policy was underdeveloped. The megaprojects approach moved swiftly from announcement, to discussion documents and frameworks, to the creation of lists of large scale projects. Most of this process occurred behind closed doors, with little consultation. And there has been little space to examine the limitations of the megaprojects approach – as well as the merits of alternatives, such as smaller urban infill projects.

Nevertheless the paper attempts to account for the uptake of the megaprojects idea within the human settlements sector, and understand the motivations and agendas of those who promoted it.

Rationales for megaprojects
In a broad sense megaprojects are glamorous because they are much more visible and impressive than diffuse small-scale projects. As a result, politicians can brand their delivery more effectively. Megaprojects convey a sense of decisive action in which the state can flex its muscle in big hit interventions.

More specifically, champions of the megaprojects approach believed that large scale projects could deliver more houses quicker. When announcing the policy in 2014, the then minister of human settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, stated that megaprojects would help deliver 1.5 million units by 2019.

Some advocates of the megaprojects approach, notably the Gauteng provincial government, were particularly attracted to the idea of creating whole new “post-apartheid cities” which could meet the “live, work and play” needs internally. Starting afresh with new settlements would be a way of designing urban spaces to avoid the inequalities and inefficiencies that beset existing cities. They would also bring major projects to poor areas that had little else to drive any significant economic growth.

Megaprojects were also intended to solve a variety of governance problems. In particular, it was extremely difficult to manage the 11 000 human settlement projects that were at various stages across the country. Consolidating these into just a few dozen projects was a way of focusing government’s attention and reducing administrative burdens and costs.

The megaprojects approach also seemed to be a way of managing the division of work and some of the tensions between different spheres of government and various departments. With some local authorities having taken on more responsibility for housing projects, national and provincial government considered megaprojects to be a way of bringing housing under more centralised management.

Concerns
Some critics are less concerned about the scale of the projects than the fact that they could be poorly located. That’s largely because better located land is more expensive. In addition, there isn’t a great deal of well-located land that is large enough to accommodate new settlements of this scale.

The history of attempting to construct new towns shows how difficult it is to create new urban centres with enough jobs for the people who live there. There is a fear that megaprojects will be no different and once the construction jobs run out, residents would have to bear the cost of travelling long distances to jobs outside the settlement.

Megaprojects on the urban periphery are also counter to the plans expressed in a wide variety of policy documents to curb urban sprawl and densify existing cities. Peripheral locations also have other challenges. If new projects are located far from sewage, water, electricity and roads then these would have to be laid out great financial and environmental costs.

Other concerns have focused more directly on the huge scale of new projects. Big projects take many years to get off the ground, and so delivery can sometimes be suspended for a long time.

Towards a balanced policy
In a recent parliamentary address, the new Minister of Human Settlements Noma-Indiya Mfeketo stated that catalytic projects “worth more than half a Trillion Rand” had been initiated. Yet she also announced that the budget had suffered a “massive cut” as a result of the fiscal challenges facing the state.

We believe that the moment should allow for some reflection on the now four year old megaprojects direction. This reflection should consider whether all housing should be delivered in megaprojects as originally intended by this policy, or whether a range of project sizes should be encouraged to facilitate, in particular, urban infill projects within existing urban areas.

Planned megaprojects should be evaluated with respect to their location, total cost to the state and long term sustainability. While some are reasonably accessible, others are peripheral, with marginal economic opportunities at best. South Africa cannot afford to construct housing in spaces that have few economic prospects and limited benefits for urban residents and the country.

Richard Ballard, Specialist Researcher: Gauteng City-Region Observatory, Wits University, University of the Witwatersrand and Margot Rubin, Senior Researcher: NRF South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, University of the Witwatersrand

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. – The Conversation

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South Africa kidnappers demand ransom in bitcoin to free teenager

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A criminal gang in South Africa who kidnapped a teenage boy on Sunday are demanding a ransom in bitcoin cryptocurrency of nearly $120,000, police said.

Katlego Marite, 13, was dragged into a car while playing with two friends near his home in Witbank, a town in the eastern province of Mpumalanga, on Sunday afternoon, police spokesman Leonard Hlathi said.

“They demanded that the family should deposit a sum of 15 bitcoins, not in rands,” he told news channel eNCA. “(The parents) don’t even know what these bitcoins are. They are not dealing in those things. They are in tatters as we speak.”

Although police in South Africa have reported a recent rise in kidnappings, the ransom demand in cryptocurrency appears to be a first.

In December, kidnappers in Ukraine received a ransom worth more than $1 million in bitcoins for releasing their victim – an employee of a British cryptocurrency exchange.

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Charges filed against South Africa hunter over ivory import

DENVER (News Observer) – The owner of a South African hunting company was indicted this month in Colorado by federal prosecutors, who accuse the man of bribing Zimbabwean government officials while guiding a Colorado tourist on a hunt for elephants and working to have the ivory tusks of an elephant the group illegally killed inside a national park imported to the U.S.

Prosecutors said 44-year-old Hanno van Rensburg took a client to the area around Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe to hunt elephants in 2015.

The Colorado client shot one elephant that did not die. The hunting party then tracked the animal into the national park but could not find it, according to prosecutors.

An indictment unsealed last week said van Rensburg and the hunter bribed government officials with at least $5,000 to let the party shoot other elephants inside the park. Zimbabwean law does not allow hunters tracking a wounded animal inside the park to continue hunting other animals.

Someone in the group shot and killed a different elephant and prosecutors say van Rensburg conspired with the client from Colorado to export ivory from the dead elephant, falsely claiming that the hunter was a resident of South Africa and that the elephant was not shot inside a national park.

In 2015, U.S. law banned importation of the body parts of African elephants killed for sport in Zimbabwe. However, the Trump administration announced in March 2018 that requests to import elephant trophies would be approved on a “case-by-case basis.”

Van Rensburg also is charged with violating a broader U.S. law — the Lacey Act — that make it illegal to transport or sell wildlife killed in violation of any foreign law.

Officials said van Rensburg has not been arrested; an arrest warrant filed with the court orders “any authorized law enforcement officer” to take him into custody. The charges include wire fraud, conspiracy and violating the Endangered Species Act.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners work together to support global efforts to protect threatened and endangered wildlife from illegal poaching,” Colorado U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer said. “(Fish and Wildlife Services) and our prosecutors did an extraordinary job investigating this case.”

Van Rensburg did not respond Monday to an email sent to an address listed on his company’s website.

Prosecutors did not name the hunter from Colorado who paid van Rensburg more than $39,000 to guide him on a hunt for elephants and a spokesman for Troyer’s office declined to identify the hunter.

Colorado federal prosecutors announced in April, though, that Paul Ross Jackson of Evergreen had reached a plea agreement after being charged for violating the Endangered Species Act for shooting and killing an elephant in Zimbabwe

The months, locations and initials of the hunting company owner — H.V.R. — in Jackson’s plea agreement mirror those in the indictment filed against van Rensburg.

Jackson was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine and agreed to provide the Fish and Wildlife Service with all documents on any hunts outside the United States. He also was ordered to transfer the elephant’s tusks back to the Zimbabwean government.

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South Africans are among the hardest workers in the world

SOUTH AFRICA (Quartz Africa) – South Africans may be some of the hardest workers in the world—they’re three times more likely to work 60 hours a week than Americans.

On average, South African employees work 43.3 hours per week, the fifth hardest working country in a sample of countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Turkey has the employees who work the most hours, followed by Colombia, Mexico and Costa Rica. Comparatively, Germans, Danes, Norwegians and Dutch worked the fewest.

Nearly 12% of the South African workforce spent more than 60 hours per week on the job. This is despite the fact that South Africa’s labor laws prohibit more than 45 hours per week and no more than 10 hours in overtime.

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South Africa’s hardest workers are black men younger than 45 in a semi-skilled occupation and lucky enough to have a permanent job in a country with high unemployment, according to a study (pdf) from Stellenbosch University’s Bureau for Economic Research.

There has been a steady increase in the number of formal employees who more than 40 hours a week, says the study. There is also an increasing gap between hours worked in the public and private sector. That is likely due to the lack of competition in the public sector and perhaps an unwillingness to flout labor laws.

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Working hours were also shorter in the economic capital, Gauteng province and the Western Cape, which has a concentration of highly-skilled workers. The average working hours in these more affluent provinces is affected by migration from other provinces. The Eastern Cape also had some of the lowest working hours, but that was because so few people had permanent employment in the impoverished province.

A closer look at working South Africans’ work habits reveals that women are also likely to work shorter hours, because they tend to be more educated and work in the professional sector. That, however, also shows the limits of the data used.

The OECD and Bosch studies exclude the informal sector, such as agriculture, domestic work and other low-income jobs. These forms of work, like farmhands and maids, are a huge source of employment in South Africa, albeit precarious and poorly paid. They are ignored by these surveys, which rely on formal employment data.

In 2000, Statistics South Africa released a standalone time use study (pdf). No later study exists, but the study revealed the limits of how we measure hard work. Taking into account informal types of work not measured by these standardized surveys, women spent 23% of their day working, as opposed to men at 19%.

South African women without a housekeeper spend 183 minutes per day on housework, as opposed to 75 minutes for men. Women living with children also spent an average of 87 minutes per day taking care of them, compared to men, who spent seven minutes.

Current working hours studies also excluded domestic labor like fetching water, which added 44 to 71 minutes per day of work, depending on the distance to the main water source. Black households in former bantustans or rural areas were most likely to be affected. Once again, it was mainly women who bore the burden of this unpaid work, starting in childhood.