Care work makes all other work possible. It is also the fastest growing labor sector in the world, with 150 million additional jobs expected by 2030. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the importance of care work. It also revealed how women do most of the care work, which is unpaid, underpaid and/or undervalued. Globally, women and girls contribute over 70% of the total hours of caregiving worldwide (paid and unpaid) and perform over 75% of unpaid care work. The disproportionate amount of unpaid care work that women and girls do prevents them from earning paid income, contributing to increasing gender inequalities around the world.
The global care economy – the paid and unpaid work related to caregiving such as childcare, elder care and domestic work – is a critical sector that enhances economic growth, equity gender and women’s empowerment. Care work is economically valuable but globally undervalued. In the United States, contributions to the care economy amount to $648 billion annually. Globally, if unpaid social workers earned minimum wage, they would add almost $11 trillion a year to the global economy.
In a new policy brief, The Global Care Economy, the Wilson Center’s Maternal Health Initiative explores the economic and societal value of caregiver work, the burden of caregiving on women, and the impact of the pandemic of COVID-19 on caregivers. Investing in paid and unpaid care workers, creating family-friendly workplaces, and addressing harmful social norms and the physical and mental burdens of caregiving are essential to supporting and valuing care work at home. global scale.
The Global Care Economy – P… by the Wilson Center
In the United States, women, especially women of color, are more likely to work in essential frontline occupations, including caregiving, which puts them at higher risk of COVID-related illness and death. -19. This is also the case globally, where women and girls make up two-thirds of the paid workforce.
Unpaid care work presents additional challenges for women. Globally, 647 million full-time unpaid carers are not looking for work because of their caring responsibilities. Most (93%) are women. In the United States, more than one in five adults were unpaid family caregivers before the pandemic. Today, an estimated 43% of adults in the United States are unpaid caregivers.
While there have been interventions at the policy level to support caregivers in the United States and around the world, greater investments are needed to appropriately value and support care work. Investing in paid and unpaid care labor can lead to increased household incomes, a more equitable gender distribution of unpaid care work, and improved working conditions in the paid care sector. To support parents in the workforce, it is essential to support family-friendly workplaces through flexible leave policies. Additionally, policies and programs must address harmful social norms that contribute to the unequal distribution of care work.
This Global Health and Gender Brief was made possible through the generous support of EMD Serono, the health business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.
Sources: The Care Economy Knowledge Hub, Center for Economic and Policy Research, International Labor Organization, McKinsey & Company, Oxfam International, Institute for Political Economy Research, The Holding Co., Where You Live Matters, World Economic Forum
Photo credit: A working mother takes notes while her daughter sits on her lap. Drazen Zigic/Shutterstock.com.