Women's economic empowerment (WEE) is often conceptualised as participation in the labour market. However, our work challenges this individualised notion of empowerment, broadening the concept of empowerment to include both choice and agency in decision-making. Therefore, work on WEE has to encompass both looking at labour market conditions (provision of decent jobs) as well as ensuring support for women's care responsibilities. Support for unpaid care work will:
- Optimise women's economic participation, by enabling them to work without deepening their time poverty, or without them worrying about the amount and quality of care their families are receiving. This in turn will help make it possible for them to choose better-paid and more empowering types of work (access to work and conditions at work place), rather than being forced into low-paid 'flexible' work.
- Share the gains of women's economic empowerment across all females in the family, so that younger girls and older women are not left to carry the burden and become disempowered as a result, and that economic benefits are not eroded because of the cost of substitute care.
- Sustain the gains of women's economic empowerment across generations, by ensuring that childcare arrangements do not deteriorate, but rather improve, as a result of their mothers' paid work.
Despite the importance of the interplay of paid work and unpaid care work in women's lives, there is little evidence of how women in low-income families manage to combine these aspects, and what the relationship is between women's paid work and their unpaid care work. Our research focuses on exploring these relationships, and seeks to propose solutions such that WEE programming can create a 'double boon': paid work that is empowering, at the same time as provision of support for women's unpaid care work responsibilities.