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Unpaid care work

Masculinities and patriarchy

Our work focuses on highlighting the importance of unpaid care work in women’s lives. We demonstrate the ill effects of unpaid care work on women’s and girls’ mental, emotional and physical health, and on their mobility and time, calling for an international and national recognition of unpaid care work in designing policies around social protection, early childhood development and women’s economic empowerment. To support this we have created policy briefs focusing on key issues, including:   highlighting the link between paid work and unpaid care work; a focus on carers of people suffering from mental health issues; and the importance of taxation for women’s rights.

We work with partners to raise the visibility of this issue in their country contexts, as well as calling for action at the international level (through inclusion of this as a target in Goal five of the SDGs; and the position paper for the UN High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment). Our objective is that public policy can implement the three Rs:[1] 

  • Recognition of the role of women and girls in the provision of unpaid care, as well as its social and economic value.
  • Reduction in the drudgery and time burden of unpaid care, especially for women living in poverty.
  • Redistribution of unpaid care work: from women to men, and from the family to communities and the state.

Our work also highlights the politics of policy processes, throwing light on issues of power and different negotiation tactics that work in different contexts to make unpaid care work visible.

Persistent and sticky gender norms mean that across all societies, women and girls undertake the bulk of unpaid care work. Our work examines the underlying factors of masculinities and patriarchy, in order to understand and delve into these gender norms, both within the family and in the paid labour market, in order to come up with viable solutions to counter these gender norms.

A focus of our work is to delineate how men and boys can be involved in undertaking care responsibilities. This implies working with underlying gender norms and questioning the gendered allocation of roles and responsibilities within the family. In some places, this can mean generating positive role models for men and boys, but in other cases interventions at policy level are required to herald positive changes in attitudes and norms towards men taking on caring tasks.

This evidence-based policy brief Transforming Care Dynamics: Lessons from Programme and Policy provides recommendations to help transform care dynamics to be more gender equitable. The training curriculum Redistributing care work for gender equality and justice is  intended  for  women  and  men  to  understand  and  challenge  the  conventional view of the economy by putting care for people and the environment at the centre.  Connecting Unpaid Care Work and Childhood Development for Gains in Women and Children's Rights is a policy briefing that looks at integrating unpaid care concerns into early childhood development policies involves redistributing childcare responsibilities from women to men.