In essence, the division of labour between members of a household, whether implicit or the result of explicit decision-making, with the alternatives weighed up in a simplified type of cost-benefit analysis. It is a plan for the relative deployment of household members' time between the three domains of employment: in the market economy, including home-based self-employment second jobs, in order to obtain money to buy goods and services in the market; domestic production work, such as cultivating a vegetable patch or raising chickens, purely to supply food to the household; and domestic consumption work to provide goods and services directly within the household, such as cooking meals, child-care, household repairs, or the manufacture of clothes and gifts. Household work strategies may vary over the life-cycle, as household members age, or with the economic environment; they may be imposed by one person or be decided collectively.
The term was devised by Ray Pahl in his book Divisions of Labour (1984). His original use of the term refers to the division of labour between household members; the individual's own plan for allocating time to work within and outside the household; and all sources of labour used by a household, including work by relatives on a gift or barter basis, and bought-in services such as child-care and cleaning purchased from non-household members. His usage also involves other concepts, such as ‘household self-provisioning’ or ‘informal work’ that bear no direct relationship to the conventional economic terms for different types of market and non-market work.