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Gender & Care

Overview

Worldwide, the responsibility for unpaid care work falls disproportionally on women and girls, leaving them less time for education, leisure, self-care, political participation, paid work, and other economic activities. Much of unpaid work is devoted to caring for household members and household provisioning such as cooking, cleaning, washing, mending and making clothes.  Caring work takes up a significant amount of time in most countries, especially where infrastructure is poor and publicly provided services are limited or absent.  The burden of care work is particularly acute in rural settings, in contexts with growing numbers of single-parent households headed by women, and in ageing societies. Women’s responsibilities for care work can limit their engagement in market activities, reduce their productivity, increase labor market segmentation and lead them to concentrate in low-paid, more insecure, part-time, informal and home-based work as a means of reconciling unpaid care work and paid employment.

ICRW conducts research to recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid work as a key lever through which to promote women’s economic empowerment. Investments in quality care services, infrastructure, energy, education and training can also significantly increase women’s opportunities for decent work as well as contribute to reducing and redistributing unpaid care work. These investments have the potential to increase women’s income, reduce their multidimensional poverty, including their time poverty, improve the gender division of labor within and beyond the household and reduce labor market segmentation. Ultimately this will reduce gender inequalities in the labor market and the household and promote substantive gender equality. Moreover, investing in care can generate jobs both directly and indirectly in the care sector and as a result increase earnings and tax revenues.

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ICRW's role

ICRW conducts research to recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid work as a key lever through which to promote women’s economic empowerment. Investments in quality care services, infrastructure, energy, education and training can also significantly increase women’s opportunities for decent work as well as contribute to reducing and redistributing unpaid care work. These investments have the potential to increase women’s income, reduce their multidimensional poverty, including their time poverty, improve the gender division of labor within and beyond the household and reduce labor market segmentation. Ultimately this will reduce gender inequalities in the labor market and the household and promote substantive gender equality. Moreover, investing in care can generate jobs both directly and indirectly in the care sector and as a result increase earnings and tax revenues.

ICRW has worked on care and investing in care providing support to the United Nations High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment on unpaid care – supporting the development of a policy brief and toolkit. We have also written guidance for USAID on women’s wage employment that highlights the critical role that investing in care can play enabling women to enter the labor market, resolve work-life conflicts and supporting their retention and promotion in their jobs. We have also collaborated with the World Health Organization to write their recent publication Women on the Move that details how migrant care workers provide essential support to host country health and social protection systems compensating for care deficits worldwide.

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