The care crisis is a feminist issue, here's why.
Written by Ester Pinheiro, Communications Officer, and Gabrielle Leite, Gender Data & Insights Analyst, Equal Measures 2030
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, essential care services have become more visible in society and have further emphasised the vital, yet unremunerated and unrecognised, roles that women often play.
Globally, women spend 2.8 more hours than men on unpaid care and domestic work, often working triple shifts. They work in their paid jobs, care for children and also take care of the family home; this triple burden impacts their physical and mental health, as well as their retention in the labour market.
When schools and preschools closed during COVID-19, women undertook the greatest share of childcare. In 2020, it is estimated that more than two million mothers dropped out of the labour force and their participation in the workforce fell by 1.8 percentage points relative to 2019, which was almost double the decline observed for men.
Nearly 60 percent of countries did not take measures to compensate for this increase in unpaid work, such as expanded family leave, emergency childcare services or cash-for-care services to compensate for school closures. On current trajectories, the gap between women's and men's unpaid care time will narrow slightly, but by 2050, women worldwide will still spend an average of 2.3 hours more per day on unpaid care and domestic work than men.
Applying an intersectional lens to care
The disparities are accentuated not only in relation to gender, but also to categories such as ethnicity, class and racial identity, with rural and Indigenous women spending up to eight more hours a week on care work than women who are not part of this population, as is the case, for example, in Mexico.
Among the 6.3 million domestic workers in Brazil, 84% are black, 95% are women and more than 50% of households headed by domestic workers are poor. And in Latin America and the Caribbean, lower-income women spend an average of 46 hours per week on unpaid work, compared to higher-income women, who spend an average of 33 hours per week.
A roadmap for action
For Milena Páramo, regional coordinator of CLADEM in Latin America, the care crisis has little by little emerged as a main issue on the regional feminist agenda and of the States of the region, and proof of this is the Buenos Aires Commitment (2022) adopted by the XV Regional Conference on Women.
“The Buenos Aires Commitment recognizes care as a right of people to care, be cared for and exercise self-care and proposes that States advance agreements in specific areas to move towards a society of care, addressing the overcoming of social division. of work and the promotion of a social organization of care,” says Milena.
For feminists in the Latin American region, the Buenos Aires Commitment is an important roadmap, “by strengthening the commitment of parties to move towards more just, equitable societies and challenging us to think not only about a new development model but also about new society model.”
Care work is also increasingly recognised as central to unlocking progress on multiple Sustainable Development Goals. Addressing these gender imbalances in relation to the distribution of care work is not only relevant to gender equality and SDG 5, but is also linked to and can help address SDG 1 (end all poverty), SDG 3 (healthy lives and promote well-being for everyone at all ages), SDG 4 (inclusive and quality education for all), SDG 8 (create decent jobs for all and promote inclusive growth) and SDG 10 (reduce inequalities).
This series of blog posts conducted by Equal Measures 2030, in collaboration with other feminist organizations, aims to raise awareness on the first UN International Day of Care and Support and to shed light on the importance of care work and the care economy, and the pressing need for accurate and inclusive data. Read the other blogs in the series: