Why are unpaid care work rates increasing?

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

The care economy, the core economy, or the reproductive economy, are some of the informal terms referred to as unpaid care work.

According to Moreira da Silva 2019, globally women and girls are responsible for 75% of unpaid care and domestic work in homes and communities every day. Raising children, cooking, cleaning, caring for elderly relatives, shopping, household management, as well as mental tasks such as planning schedules, are some of the duties that most of the women and girls have to do every day.

On average, women around the world perform 4 hours and 25 minutes of unpaid care work every day whereas men perform only 1 hour and 23 minutes. Unpaid care responsibilities have a negative and measurable impact on women’s participation in the paid economy. Job opportunities, income, and power between men and women is undervalued and exploited, generating life-long inequalities in social standing,


Moreover, 606 million women, or 41% of those currently inactive from the standpoint of formal employment, are outside the labour market because of their unpaid care responsibilities. Even though childcare provided by the state has enabled more women to enter the paid workforce, it has not generally resulted in the redistribution of care tasks between men and women.

Due to the #COVID-19 and quarantine, with children out of school, heightened care needs of older persons and overwhelmed health services, the unpaid care work has increased. Working mothers with two children were 40% more stressed than the average person under pre-pandemic conditions. Whereas, during the pandemic, for 57% of mothers and 32% of fathers the mental health has been worse.

Unpaid childcare has been mostly provided by women because of the traditional gender roles and partly because of the structure of women’s economic participation. Women are also less likely to have a financial safety net, due to greater job insecurity and lower average pay rates. They are twice as likely as men to report being unable to afford necessities for more than a month if they lost their job. Whereas, black women are three times as likely as white men to report this financial insecurity.

It is necessary and possible to take account of the additional unpaid care burden placed on women and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. This could be an opportunity for systemic changes that enable care work to be valued and accounted for in economic and social policies.

Source: The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the care burden of women and families
K. POWER 2020
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