Unpaid Care Work – Post Interview Notes
Earlier this week I was invited to BBC World News ‘Talking Business’ with Aaron Heslehurst to talk about Unpaid Care Work, following a new #Oxfam report. Since the interview only touched the tip of the iceberg with this wide-spread topic that is at the heart of our global inequality, I want to share my interview notes on the issue, with the hope to bring it to the forefront of our social, political and economic discourse.
Is this universal?
* Yes. Unfortunately, It is. According to a recent IMF report, globally, women perform 76.2% of the total hours of unpaid care work.
* More specifically, here in the UK, a 2015 Office of National Statistics analysis shows women carry out an overall average of 60% more unpaid work than men.
* What is important to understand here is the significance of unpaid care work to society and the economy. There is an unseen dependency of the Monetary – Production system on the Non-Monetary (unpaid) Reproduction system.
* Because care work is still perceived as a woman’s ‘natural’ role, there is a lack of recognition of the contribution of unpaid care work to the GDP.
What needs to be done to stop the extreme inequality with regard to unpaid care work?
* First, we need to view this issue in light of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal #5 (Gender Equality), Goal #8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) & Goal #10 (Reduced Inequalities). This is a global problem and it requires a global collaboration in order to reach a solution.
* Overall the solution is three-fold: First, economic empowerment for women – access to high-quality education and the labor market, especially in STEM professions. increasing women’s agency and bargaining powers in society.
* Second, the inclusion of men in care work – by actively working toward un-gendering this practice and creating new models of masculinity: For example, according to a 2014 Boston College study, 89% of new fathers want to take time off from work after their babies are born and think it should be paid. So many men do want to take part in the care work and we need to focus on the things that stop them from doing so.
* Third, governments and the private sector can become more involved and take some of the responsibilities of individual care-work (held mostly by women). In other words, re-distributing care responsibilities.
How can businesses and governments help the situation?
* First of all, there is ample research and guidelines from international organisations such as ILO, SIDA, UN Women, etc – these are very valuable.
* Governments (with a context-specific approach, depending on a country’s income level and infrastructure) can:
– Provide care through social services (child-care, elderly-care, health-care).
– Tax elevation.
– Changing policies and laws – For example, supporting equal parental leave.
– Creating programs that expand women’s opportunities in education and the job market.
* The Private Sector can:
– Educate themselves on the gender-related impact of their business, using the support of gender consultants.
– Apply a gender lens on their supply chain, mainstreaming gender equality goals throughout global branches, sub-contractors, and suppliers. For example, introduce substantial, equal paid paternity leave or provide child-care services.
– Regularly monitor their goals and practices to ensure the sustainability of their gender responsiveness.
Most importantly, we need to understand that these are long-term processes and should be benchmarked, finances and monitored accordingly.