Girls between the ages of five and 14 are spending 40 percent more time on unpaid domestic chores than boys their age, missing out on chances to learn and enjoy their childhood, according to a report on Friday ahead of International Day of the Girl.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said girls are spending 160 million more hours a day on household work such as cooking, cleaning, looking after family members and collecting water and firewood.
Girls in South Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa make up the bulk of the report, which also found that girls aged 10 to 14 took on the most disproportionate burden of chores in Burkina Faso, Yemen and Somalia.
"The overburden of unpaid household work begins in early childhood and intensifies as girls reach adolescence," said UNICEF's Principal Gender Advisor Anju Malhotra.
"As a result, girls sacrifice important opportunities to learn, grow, and just enjoy their childhood. This unequal distribution of labor among children also perpetuates gender stereotypes and the double-burden on women and girls across generations."
Analysts said gender inequality continued to pose a major challenge to meeting the U.N.'s new set of global goals agreed last year to end extreme poverty and address the lack of opportunities and violence against women by 2030.
International Day of the Girl, on Oct. 11, was set up by the United Nations in 2011 to recognize the rights of the 1.1 billion girls around the world and the challenges they face.
Researchers said addressing issues such as violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation and education, as well as empowering girls to reach their potential was not only beneficiary for girls, but key for economic growth, peace and poverty reduction.
A report by the children's charity Plan International earlier this week warned millions of girls would remain at risk until there were better statistics and data to track issues, such as sexual violence against girls and school attendance.