Unpaid Care Work
Table of Contents
IntroductionUnpaid Care work is carried out across the globe every day and is essential to a society’s well-being. The majority of care work such as cleaning, cooking, and caring for children or elderly, is performed by women and girls and is usually unpaid. Although this work is critical to the proper functioning of communities, unpaid care work has been largely ignored by economic and social public policy initiatives. This is due to both a lack of data on unpaid care work and the failure to recognize its economic valueMaking Care Visible: Women’s Unpaid Care work in Nepal, Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya, ActionAID, February 2013.Razavi, Shahra (2007), The Political and Social Economy of Care in a Development Context, The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. .
Unpaid care work remains a barrier to reaching gender equality as it reinforces discriminatory gender stereotypes that force women to stay in the home and limits their participation in the public sphere SIDA Unpaid Care Brief. The unequal burden of unpaid care work on women and girls contributes to the persistent gender gaps in labour force participation, activity rates, and wages. In 2013, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights stated that the unequal burden of unpaid care work on women, especially women in poverty, was a barrier to women’s full enjoyment of their human rights and this institutionalized inequality needed to be addressed by countries across the globe.Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (2013), UN.
Understanding unpaid care work
Defining Unpaid Care work
Unpaid care work includes the production of goods or services in a household or community that are not sold on a market. Unpaid care work in the household includes domestic work such as cooking, cleaning, washing, and water and fuel collection. Products of unpaid care work may also benefit those in the community, such as cooking a meal for a neighbour or volunteering in a homeless shelter. Unpaid care work also includes activities that nurture others such as taking care of children, and tending to the elderly and the sick.
Unpaid care work and leisure is differentiated by the “third-person” criterion. If you could hypothetically pay a third person for the service or product then it is considered work. This means that making meals and doing laundry is work while reading and watching television are considered leisure because you cannot transfer the satisfaction and enjoyment of these activities from one person to another.Miranda, Veerle (2011), OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers N.116 Cooking, Caring, and Volunteering: Unpaid Work Around the World.OECD.
Measuring Unpaid Care work
Due to its private nature (usually taking place within a household) and non-monetary value (due to the nurturing qualities of care), it can be difficult to assess the value of unpaid care work. However, measuring unpaid care work is necessary to understand its economic contribution and the impact it has one the lives of those who both perform the work and benefit from it. Time use surveys are one way to measure unpaid care work. These surveys record how people allocate their time throughout the day allowing researchers and policy-makers to see activities that are usually invisible, such as unpaid care work, and how the distribution of this work differs based on gender, ethnicity and socio-economic level.
Women in every country regardless of that country’s level of development, perform a disproportionate amount of unpaid care work. This is true even when women are performing the same amount of paid work as their male counterpartsOECD (2012), Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now, OECD Publishing.. The time and opportunity costs of unpaid care work effect women’s ability to participate and advance in the formal labour sector and in the political sphere. The impact is greatest on women in poverty due to their limited access to private services or tame-saving technologies Gender Development Network (2014), Unpaid care: A priority for the post-2015 Development goals and beyond. .
The gendered division of unpaid care work also has negative economic consequences at the national level. Studies show that reducing a women’s share of unpaid care could increase agricultural labour productivity by 15% and capital productivity by as much as 44% in certain countries. Furthermore the IMF states that if women were able to fully realize their market potential there would be significant macroeconomic gainsIMF (2013), Women, Work and the Economy:Macroeconomic Gains from Gender Equity..
International FrameworkUnpaid The 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action referred to the unequal distribution of unpaid care work between men and women as a barrier to gender equality. It called on states to establish and increase data collection n unpaid care work and design policies that recognize the importance of unpaid care work and provide equal rights to those of perform unpaid care work.
By seeing the gendered division of unpaid care work as a human rights issue, The Special rapporteur points to the legally binding international human rights conventions that require states to address the issue including the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The International Labour Organization has introduced labour standards that address this issue such as the ILO Convention No. 156 on workers with family responsibilities, Convention No. 182 on maternity protection, and Convention No. 189 regarding decent work for domestic workersReport of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (2013). United Nations.
Unpaid Care in the Development Agenda
In 2008 at an Expert group meeting on Unpaid work, Economic Development and Human Well-being held by the United Nations Development Programme, Professor Diane Elson presented a model of three interconnected dimensions to incorporate the issue of unpaid care work into the development agenda: Recognition, Reduction and Redistribution.Elson, Diane. 2008 “‘The Three R’s of Unpaid Work: Recognition, Reduction and Redistribution, Presented at the Expert Group Meeting on Unpaid Work, Economic Development and Human Well-Being, United Nations Development Programme.
- Recognition means that the unpaid care work done mainly by women is acknowledged as work and production. This means that it is made visible to those who profit from it and to policymakers at the local and national level. This includes gathering qualitative and quantitative data that can be used by policymakers and civil society organizations in designing projects. Recognition may also take the form of compensation of unpaid care workers, including these workers in social security programs, and including unpaid care work in national statistics.
- Reduction of unpaid care work involves reducing the burden for the individual (usually a woman) and society as a whole. This frees time for women and girls to pursue other activities such as formal jobs or political participation. Unpaid care work can be reduced through the introduction of infrastructure and technology such as wells that provide easier access to clean drinking water reducing the amount of time spent collecting water. The burden of unpaid care work can also be reduced though increased public services like child care.
- Redistribution of unpaid care work to more fairly distribute the amount of work done by individuals includes redistribution among men, women, households, markets, the state and civil society organizations. While the overall amount of care work remains the same, the share of responsibilities, time an resources is more equitably distributed.
- Unpaid care in the post-2015 agenda , 20-24 October 2014
- Unpaid care work
- Making Care Visible
- Global Care Chain
- Care in households and communities: Background paper on conceptual issues, Oxfam GB, Oxford. February 2013. ISBN: 978-1-78077-473-2.
- “Sixteen Years after Beijing: What Are the New Policy Agendas for Time-Use Data Collection?”, eminist Economics, Special Issue on Unpaid Work, Time Use, Poverty and Public Policy (II), Vol. 17, No. 3, October 2011. ISSN 1354-5701.
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- Gender Inequalities in Allocating Time to Paid and Unpaid Work: Evidence from Bolivia – Working Paper # 34