Building a better world post COVID-19 will mean investing in the care economy, UN says

Building a better world post COVID-19 will mean investing in the care economy, UN says

by Freya Lucas

July 07, 2021

In order for the world to recover from COVID-19, the care economy (which includes paid care in early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings) needs urgent transformation and investment, leaders at the Generation Equality Forum Paris have said. 

 

The high-level panel on care was held at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris on 2 July, during which the Government of Mexico, represented by the President of the National Institute of Women (INMUJERES), Nadine Gasman, launched the Global Alliance for Care.

 

The pandemic, Ms Gasman said, “laid bare the critical economic and social importance of care work – mostly unpaid and done by women,” leaving the Global Alliance poised to mobilise policy and action that invests in the care economy and ensures economic justice and rights for women and girls worldwide.

 

“Care work has always been very high on the feminist agenda, but the COVID experience has made it very real for men and women”, she outlined.

 

Around the world, the closure of schools and childcare during the pandemic pushed parents, mainly women, to a breaking point. 

 

UN Women research shows that on average, women now spend nearly as much time doing unpaid care work, as a full-time paid job. These impacts are more pronounced in developing countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Women have also been forced to leave the workforce at alarming rates, rolling back progress towards gender equality.

 

“We created the Global Alliance for Care as a call for urgent action by governments, civil society, the private sector and international organisations; actions that will change the way work is distributed,” Ms Gasman added. “We need legal reform, more services, physical spaces for service [provision] and awareness campaigns. This is a socio-cultural transformation that we know is going to be revolutionary.”

 

UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Anne Hathaway affirmed that changing the way the world treats care-giving is a vital step in changing the opportunities for women to thrive. 

 

“Care work deserves to be properly recognized and made visible. It needs to be safe and fairly paid. I spoke recently with women in Mexico who have been able to change their lives through getting help with care; from leaving situations of abuse to developing successful livelihoods. We all need to be able to make choices that are best for us and our families,” Ms Hathaway said.

 

UN Women Deputy Executive Director Asa Regner invited the distinguished champions for the care economy to join wide-ranging partnerships to reduce and redistribute the unpaid care work, and to promote decent work conditions for care-givers, including those working in ECEC.

 

The high-level panel also highlighted how innovative policy design, financing, and investments in care infrastructure can be a game-changer for job creation, inclusive growth, poverty reduction, and women’s economic empowerment.

 

“We firmly believe that investments in the care economy have the potential to create decent jobs for care workers, particularly for women; and to contribute to the achievement of several Sustainable Development Goals, including those related to education, health, gender equality and growth, facilitating a recovery [from COVID-19] that is both inclusive and resilient,” Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General said.

 

Speaking specifically about ECEC, the Government of Canada, represented by Karina Gould, described reforms of care as a ‘triple win’. 

 

“It’s a win for children, for gender equality and for the economy. It’s one of the few policies that actually pays for itself.” 

 

Ms Gould shared that the childcare system implemented in Quebec resulted in the province going from having the lowest female workforce participation in Canada, to the highest, and that the number of women entering the workforce [in Quebec] “has resulted in enough government revenue to pay for the childcare system.”

 

At the conclusion of the session, speakers emphasised that building back better, in ways that are gender equitable, will require deliberate actions focused on the care economy, something the UN Women Deputy Executive Director expressed an eagerness about, vowing to work with all stakeholders to transform the global care economy over the next five years.

 

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