Care, Social Protection and Decent Work

​The provision of care turns out to be a highly critical domain and origin of gender inequality. Care work, paid and unpaid, thus is characterised by enormous asymmetries between women and men, with women continuing to carry out a larger amount of (unpaid) care work than men across all societies. Women carry a much heavier workload than men as women, in addition to their (often low) paid job, bear the brunt of non-paid care work. Hence, the impact on women’s opportunities, lives and well-being can be severe. Care responsibilities make it difficult, and at times impossible, for women to take up decent paid work as it compels many women to work a ‘double day’. Even worse, care work creates obstacles to their participation in the public and political sphere. Consequently, the misleading but generally accepted assumption that women are dedicated to care by nature and that they have enough time and capacity to meet growing care needs - with little external support or support from the state – restricts women even further. Addressing root causes of gender equality – such as power imbalances and gender stereotypes - rather than symptoms, is critical to eradicate discrimination against women and girls, achieve women’s and girls’ empowerment and promote sustainable development. This needs a reduction, redistribution and recognition of care work.

In the context of the global financial crisis (in particular) and other global challenges such as growing poverty, food crises, climate change, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and ageing populations, care crises are escalating. Alternative development concepts and economic structures, such as a care-and-provision-driven economy, in which women have always been key actors, are persistently being marginalised. Moreover, global and local care regimes are establishing new unequal divisions of labour among women of different classes, for example, as poorer women - often migrants - take on the care work that wealthier women are unable or willing to do. Development programmes should thus address care work systematically in all fields of action and give special attention in programmes for local economic development, governance and income generation.

Furthermore, equal access for women and men to social security and gender-responsive universal social protection floors are critical for poverty reduction and sustainable development. The right to social protection is a human right. Nonetheless, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) more than 75% of the world’s population live without adequate protection from risks such as economic and ecological crises. Women, doing most of the unpaid care work and often working in informal, low paid and precarious jobs, are often bypassed by social security benefits such as pensions for the aged, unemployment or disability insurances. Therefore non-contributory social protection floors, which guarantee access to social security and a sufficient basic income for everyone, are needed – and these strongly need to consider gender aspects.
ICFG, SDC, Caritas Switzerland: Added Value. Contributions to gender equitable economic development (2011)

Further resources and publications on gender in employment and income you can find here.