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Unpaid Care Work

Time to ‘Recognise, Reduce and Redistribute’

Deepta Chopra
20 May 2015
The views expressed in this paper are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank
(ADB), or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this paper and
accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. The countries listed in this paper do not imply any view on ADB's part as to sovereignty
or independent status or necessarily conform to ADB's terminology.

Meeting the material and
and spiritual needs of other
people through direct
personal relationships

Fundamental premise
Care has a widespread, long-term, positive impact
on wellbeing and development, it underpins all
development policy & is critical to ensuring
sustainable economic empowerment of women and
girls & addressing inequality and vulnerability.

Significance of UCW in Women’s Lives
 Occupies large amounts of women’s and girls’ time -restricting participation in civil, economic and social
 Lack of leisure time -- reduction in women and girl’s well
 Drudgery ....adverse health outcomes
 Income from paid work....eroded with costs of care
 Economic empowerment through paid
work...individualised, limited and unsustainable
 Who cares when women work in paid jobs ....reduction of
care, adverse outcomes for care recipients

Links between UCW and WEE

WEE is not simply about labour force
participation, but also about the choice to work,
the choice of sector, location and working hours

UCW impacts on the type, location and nature of
paid work that women and girls can undertake

Discrimination in the labour market:
 Women more likely to stay at home rather than work in paid economy:
– Formal sector jobs usually located in cities or places far away from
– high costs and time for transport
– low wages and high costs of childcare
 Undertaking paid work close to home allows women to mind their
children, cook meals and care for elderly relatives, without incurring
additional time and financial cost

 Correlation between women’s stages of life and entry into the
labour force:
 Increase in women’s household responsibilities, either through marriage
or childbearing, leads to many women either withdrawing from the
labour market; finding more flexible, part- time jobs; or entering into
self-employment that offers more flexible time management.

What is the problem?
 Unpaid care work is UNEQUALLY distributed
 Unequal distribution of care undermines women’s and girls’
rights, limits their opportunities, capabilities and choices and
impedes their empowerment.

 Unpaid care work is INVISIBLE
 In Policy – Intent and implementation
 In Research – Political economy analysis of processes; M&E,
impact evaluations
 In Programming – entry points, integration/ mainstreaming
(women-related and general programmes)
 Amongst donors, government officials, researchers
 In budgeting - It has INADEQUATE INVESTMENT

Findings: Invisibility in SP and ECD policy
No of policies

No. of policies
which have a care

No. of countries
that these policies
were from

Social Protection


23 (21%)

16 (out of 53) – SSA
and LA

Early childhood


41 (15%)

33 (out of 142) – LA
and SSA

SP: Main focus on redistribution of care responsibilities from the family to
the state. Nothing about redistribution within the family; only 2 about
reduction of drudgery
ECD: Focus is on support for carers in terms of better parenting, including
the inclusion of men as fathers. Redistribution to state mainly based on
recognition of women working outside the home in paid jobs; No policy for
reduction of drudgery

The ‘Care-Less’ budget

Findings: Unpaid care is largely Women’s
Findings: UCW is largely women’s work

Making care visible in Public Policy

Policy asks: Gender sensitive poverty policies
What needs to be included in policies so that they are gender sensitive?

Policy Asks
 Recognise* care and care work
 Reduce difficult, inefficient tasks
 Redistribute responsibility for care
more equitably - from women to men,
and from families to the
 Representation of carers in decisionmaking
… as a precondition for achieving
women’s political, social and
economic empowerment, and for
addressing poverty and inequality

* “Three Rs of Unpaid Work” Prof. Diane Elson 2008

Examples of care sensitive interventions
1. Recognize
Government census includes care work, unpaid work, time-use surveys
Education - appreciation of carers, school curriculum
Development actors - (Unpaid) care documented with time use diaries, stories
Media– radio spots, TV, posters, street theatre, viral emails

2. Reduce
Available, accessible time & labour-saving devices; infrastructure development

3. Redistribute
Women to men: men learn cooking, do cleaning, child care, elder care
Families to the state/employers:
Increased care budgets; employers -childcare, health, maternity, pensions; small
infrastructure (water, electricity, sanitation facilities)
Away from poor women & families:
Small infrastructure & services in poor communities; domestic workers’ rights

Taking unpaid care work into account into
policies and programmes has the potential
to significantly strengthen the empowering
outcomes of current WEE strategies.

Accounting for UCW in WEE
• Optimise women’s economic participation, by enabling them
to work without deepening their time poverty, or worrying
about the amount and quality of care their families are
• Share the gains of women’s economic empowerment across
all females in the family, so that younger girls and older
women are not left to carry the burden and be disempowered
as a result.
• Sustain the gains of women’s economic empowerment across
generations, by ensuring that the quality of childcare improves
rather than deteriorates, as a result of their mothers’ paid