Tracing the links between girls’ unpaid care work and women’s economic empowerment

Gina Crivello

That women’s economic empowerment and gender equality go hand in hand is being highlighted as part of this year’s International Women’s Day. The theme ‘Women in the Changing World of Work’ draws attention to the disproportionate amount of time spent on unpaid care work as a chief deterrent to women’s economic empowerment.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka points out that:

Across the world, too many women and girls spend too many hours on household responsibilities – typically more than double the time spent by men and boys. They look after younger siblings, older family members, deal with illness in the family and manage the house.

One of the proposed solutions is to ‘Share unpaid care!’ with men, and to invest in technology, infrastructure and services to reduce the care burden on women.

Similarly, in ‘Sharing the Load’ briefing, the Gender and Development Network argue that unpaid care work is connected to virtually every aspect of women’s economic empowerment – impacting women’s time for paid work, education and leisure, and their economic decision-making power.

Girls are increasingly being brought into this important debate, as in Unicef’s report on Harnessing the Power of Data for Girls highlighting gender inequalities in children’s household chores - worldwide, girls aged 5-9 and 10-14 spend, respectively, 30 per cent and 50 per cent more of their time helping around the house than boys of the same age.