Unpaid Care

 KEUR ALPHA, SENEGAL - AUGUST 12: A child reading to her mother in their local Wolof language. The children's books in the local language was developed and printed by TOSTAN to help preserve the local languages in rural areas in Senegal. The program is part of TOSTAN's Reinforcement of Parental Practices Module, where by applying the knowledge gained during the Reinforcement of Parental Practices Module, parents and community members will give children an excellent start in their social, linguistic, and emotional growth. This healthy development will in turn lead to more children staying in and excelling in school, and improve child parent relationship. August 12, 2014 in Keur Alpha, Senegal. (Photo by Jonathan Torgovnik/Reportage by Getty Images)..

Worldwide, the majority of unpaid care and domestic work is carried out by women.

The term unpaid care is used to describe a range of work, including caring for children and sick or elderly family members, while domestic work includes cooking, cleaning, laundry and collecting food and fuel. These tasks are performed without remuneration; they also dramatically reduce the time available to women and girls for other activities such as going to school, earning a living, and contributing to community and political life.

The provision of care is essential to the wellbeing of society and the functioning of the economy, yet conventional economic policy tends to ignore the essential role played by the care economy and the way that it subsidises the productive economy.

Recognise, redistribute and reduce care

Policy-making needs to recognise the full extent of the care economy by measuring the economic contribution of unpaid care work. Care providers should be consulted and time-use surveys carried-out. The results should be included in national statistics and national accounts.

Care and domestic work should be redistributed, not just from women to men but – more importantly – from individuals and families to state-funded provision. Ensuring that high quality public services are universally available will free up women’s time for paid work as well as political and social activity, and will also create more paid employment. Investment in appropriate technology, such as fuel-efficient stoves or communal laundry facilities, can further reduce the time burden and drudgery of care and domestic work without compromising its quality.

GADN recommends that governments

  • Recognise unpaid care and domestic work as valuable work, include it in national accounts and fund gender-disaggregated time-use surveys that monitor time spent on this work

  • Make macroeconomic decisions based on an understanding of the importance of care provision in sustaining societies, including cost-benefit analysis of economic policies and their impact on unpaid care work.

  • Increase public investment in quality care services, ensuring that high quality care services are accessible and affordable to all.

  • Reduce the time it takes people to provide quality care and domestic work by investing in labour-saving equipment and infrastructure including water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, electricity and public transportation.

  • Protect the rights of unpaid care workers by: promoting the inclusion of those with unpaid care responsibilities in political activity and economic decision-making; introducing labour regulations that enable those undertaking unpaid care work to engage in remunerated work; and ensuring that unpaid care work does not reduce access to social protection.

More on the issue

📷 Child reads to her mother in their local Wolof language. Keur Alpah, Senegal (August 2014) © Jonathan Torgovnik

GADN Coordinator