- Globally, women bear the most care responsibilities
- The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the vital need for child care support services
- The pandemic also led to a significant drop in female workforce participation globally due to care responsibilities
- With a growing 65+ population globally and a high percentage of people with disabilities in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs), long-term care support is essential
- Investment in care services is key to supporting women’s economic empowerment, as women shoulder the disproportionate burden of caregiving
WASHINGTON, DC — A new report from WeProsper, a global coalition for women’s economic empowerment, provides evidence on the lack of care services globally, which further contributes to gender inequality. It reveals that long-term care policies around the world require urgent attention and that, while child care policies are increasing, they are still far below what is needed to fill child care provision gaps. The report outlines the impact that investment in care services could have on many dimensions of women’s economic empowerment, and broader economic outcomes, such as overall employment and tax revenues.
The report, entitled Global Assessment of Care Services: Current Status, Impact, and Policy Recommendations, has been released as governments determine how to invest in recovery solutions for COVID-19. The pandemic only added to the already disproportionate burden of caregiving shouldered by women around the world.
Mary Borrowman, Senior Economist at ICRW, said: “Research has shown that investments in care services impact the economy in different ways than traditional infrastructure, with the potential to generate greater employment, particularly for women, and tax revenues, while also meeting vital care needs. The evidence is clear: investments in care services lead to a range of socially and economically beneficial outcomes, supporting growth, women’s economic empowerment, and inclusive economies.”
Investment in long-term care is particularly urgent given that the global population of those 65 or older will be 1.5 billion by 2050. Also, approximately 1 billion people experience some form of disability, 80 percent of whom live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In many LMICs, long-term care needs are not being met by governments. Instead, the burden gets shifted to care recipients and their families. Given women already bear the most care responsibilities globally, this creates even greater gender disparities in unpaid care work, posing more obstacles to gender equality.
Mando Chiundaponde, Program Officer for the African Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET), explained at a recent event on care services hosted by WeProsper: “In Africa, over 70% of care is provided by family members, most of them being women and girls, and that isn’t really recognized. The Africa Care Economy Index is monitoring care support in the 54 states in Africa, and this will be used as a regional tool for capacity building across the region, influencing policy strategies and hopefully leading to investments. It’s so important to have these conversations with policymakers to continue to build the case for investment, to help influence change and redress this balance.”
When it comes to child care, the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the existing crisis, particularly affecting women in their roles as both unpaid and underpaid care workers. For LMICs, the Center for Global Development estimates that around 615 billion hours of unpaid child care were needed due to COVID-19 school closures. When children were sent home, the need for child care increased and household members had to provide it; resulting in the burden primarily falling on mothers, grandmothers, and female adolescents. Globally, increased demand for child care and other unpaid domestic care during the pandemic caused women to leave jobs in all sectors, formal and informal, in far greater numbers than men.
WeProsper analyzed which broader policies create an enabling environment to recognize, reduce, and redistribute gendered burdens of a child, elder, and other care duties in LMICs. The policies that create this enabling environment include: paid parental leave, paid family and medical leave, family-friendly and flexible workplace, labor protections, decent work for care workers, non-contributory pensions, migration policies, data collection, and changing social norms. WeProsper encourages policymakers, specifically in LMICs, to consider these policies as governments assess how to invest in care solutions. To offer specific recommendations to policymakers seeking to advance women’s economic empowerment, WeProsper has released a policy brief, “Prioritizing Care Services to Advance Women’s Economic Empowerment.”
WeProsper also reviewed various research, which evaluated the care gaps and impacts of investments in quality and affordable care services. For example:
- Provision of high-quality child care could reduce the gender pay gap by 8.6 percent globally, the equivalent of $527 billion (Eurasia Group).
- An investment in long-term care of 2.45 percent of GDP could create 184 million jobs, with women benefiting from as much as 78 percent of this employment increase, reducing the gender employment gap by 7.4 percentage points (International Labour Organization).
Jessica Espinoza, the Chief Executive Officer for the 2XCollaborative, commented from the private sector perspective: “The care economy is not something that private sector investors have traditionally focused on, but COVID-19 has put a spotlight on this, and there is now a growing interest from investors, including local financial institutions, to get involved in the care sector. It is all about finding the right balance between public and private investment to have a transformative impact and ensure we leave nobody behind.”
WeProsper is calling on policymakers, governments, and businesses to make the necessary investments in quality and affordable care services to support inclusive COVID-19 recoveries, sustainable economies, and women’s economic empowerment, justice, and rights.
To read the full report, go to: https://www.icrw.org/publications/global-assessment-of-care-services-current-status-impact-and-policy-recommendations/.
WeProsper held an UNGA side event on 22nd September to discuss care infrastructure and highlight what is urgently needed to address women’s economic empowerment. To view the discussion, go here https://youtu.be/W9BvDXtwwBk
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Desk research was conducted between April and July 2022 and undertaken by Mary Borrowman (ICRW), Erin Leasure (ICRW), Foteini Papagioti (ICRW), Kelsey Harris (ICRW), and Amar Nijhawan (Oxfam Canada).
For further information, please contact:
Britt Robinson, Communications Specialist, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), email@example.com and Jane Hill, Senior Communications Consultant, Jane@skatingpanda.com / ICRW@skatingpanda.com / +44 7798605799
WeProsper is a global coalition that engages in strategic advocacy to advance women’s economic empowerment, justice and rights by simultaneously challenging existing power structures and systems while amplifying the voice and agency of women and girls as economic actors.
We are continually growing our global evidence base — comprising both rigorous research and lived experience — to best inform policy change that advances women’s economic empowerment. We believe that women’s economic empowerment, justice and rights can only be achieved by addressing the structural barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving economic equality.
WeProsper has over 55 members from across the globe, including regional and global civil society organizations, international non-governmental organizations, grassroots organizations, women-led and feminist groups, academic institutions, and the private sector, who collectively advocate for change. Together, we work with governments and policymakers to address structural barriers and enable women and girls to achieve their full potential, develop skills, gain access to resources, and be fully engaged in decision-making that impacts them and their families.