Changing THE perspective
The first step to solving any problem is to name it. Unpaid care work provides real value to all economies, yet it is not meaningfully recognized as such. Women take on the bulk of unpaid care work, indicating internal and/or external expectations that this responsibility primarily rests on them. It is possible to identify the economic value of this output of labor by asking what it would cost to hire someone else to do the work instead (as wealthy people frequently do), but that does not take into account the social cost. Organizations have sought to recognize unpaid care work in official national statistics through time-use surveys in order to better inform economic and social policies, but much progress remains to be made in the political arena. Recognition truly starts at the individual level – in our own families and homes.
CHANGING THE BURDEN
The second action in addressing the unequal burden of unpaid care work is reducing the amount of work to be performed. A key area here is public investment in physical infrastructure and technology. Clean and accessible water and sanitation, public transport systems, and clean energy are crucial game-changers in the reduction of such work. Women and girls across sub-Saharan Africa spend millions of hours per day collecting water, precious time that would be better spent on education or formal work. In countries with better infrastructure, unpaid work falls disproportionately on women in other ways, such as all the tasks performed in caring for family members. Public investment in early childhood education and care services, as well as non-medical care services for the elderly, provide benefits beyond giving individual caregivers more time through the creation of new jobs.
CHANGING THE RESPONSIBILITY
Redistribution of unpaid care work is the third element, and the one that requires tangible societal and behavioral changes. Nobody is advocating for the complete elimination of care work, were that even possible. It can be a source of deep fulfillment for many – but it shouldn’t have to be borne alone. This will look different for every family (depending on the employment status of the partners, the ages of the children, and so forth), but it is a discussion that should be commonplace. A key policy action to facilitate this is paid parental leave for both parents, encouraging workplaces to value employees as caregivers as well as professionals. These actions should not merely focus on making paid work possible for women, but rather on reducing women’s responsibilities at home by increasing the expectations of sons, partners and fathers to step up.
Gender equality in work is impossible without gender equality in society.
mckinsey global institute
The Human Rights Lens
Unpaid care work is fundamentally a human rights issue. International treaties have addressed topics relating to unpaid care work in various articles and conventions. These can serve as the groundwork for any policy and advocacy discussions.
Visualizing the Data
WikiGender: Unpaid Care Work
Women Deliver: Boost Women’s Economic Empowerment