Care is around us everywhere – from the mother who takes care of her children, to the wife who cooks her family’s meals, the eldest daughter who helps with the housework, and the widow who works in the community kitchen.
These different caring activities are essential to maintaining our societies and across the world are primarily done by women and girls. When this work is carried out in the person’s own home and is unpaid, it is not reflected in national statistics or economic analyses, despite its centrality to our day-to-day wellbeing. It is perceived to be less valuable than paid work and it is ignored and not considered to be “work” even by the women and men who engage in and benefit directly from these activities. In part because it is invisible in national statistics and less valued, local and national authorities generally fail to design social and economic policies that can reduce women’s primary responsibility for unpaid care work.
While all women regardless of class, race, caste and ethnicity are expected to provide care as part of their roles as mothers, wives, and daughters, women living in poverty are disproportionately affected by this responsibility. Unpaid care is more difficult to do in the context of poverty as basic amenities, and access to public services are lacking. Further, the income needed to purchase goods and services to undertake care work may not be available. Women must then rely on their own labour to provide the care that is required. Many women living in poverty carry the dual responsibilities for both unpaid care work and earning an income or subsistence farming. Women’s responsibility for care leads to the violation of their basic human rights to an education, political participation, decent work and leisure. It contributes to persistent gender inequalities.