Annex A. Framework and methodology


This policy paper adapts the framework used by Chopra, Kelbert and Iyer (2013[1]) to conduct a political economy analysis of how unpaid care concerns are considered with regard to early childhood development and social protection policies. The authors’ framework looks at the intent and design of polices as well as their implementation and outcomes to determine which combinations of actors, institutions, ideas and incentives, and windows of opportunity/moments in time are conducive to the adoption of policies dealing with unpaid care. The authors also identify key issues that have not been adequately addressed in the literature so far. These issues are the interests, motivations and interactions of different players working to incorporate unpaid care; how the choice of specific pathways to achieve the 3Rs is made; whether enough resources are allocated to achieve the intended policy outcomes; and evidence as to whether in fact these outcomes have been achieved.

Broadening the approach used by Chopra, Kelbert and Iyer to cover programmes as well as policies and to address some of the gaps identified, the analysis for this report focuses on the following main questions (See Annex B for a more detailed list of questions used in the interview process):

  • What approaches to infrastructure, social protection, public services and promoting shared responsibility within the household to address women’s unpaid care work have been attempted in different contexts?

  • What works to achieve the 3Rs, and in which context?

  • Which coalitions of actors have been instrumental to adopting new policies and programmes?

  • What targeted strategies or interventions are needed to achieve the 3Rs for different groups (e.g. age group or stage in the life cycle, location, marital status, socio-economic background, labour market status, or other marginalisation factors such as disability)?

  • What different resource models have been tried in infrastructure, social protection and public services to address women’s unpaid care work?

The analysis focuses on interventions that recognise and intentionally address unpaid care work as well as on those that do not aim to address the issue but that have had or have the potential to significantly reduce and/or redistribute unpaid care work. It aims to look beyond how programmes and policies work to see how understanding of unpaid care work is evolving over time, which key actors are involved in designing and adopting policies and programmes, and why certain approaches have been chosen over others. Where possible, the analysis also notes how policies and programmes address the realities of unpaid care work across different social groups. This is a relatively neglected research area, but one greatly important for both the inclusive growth and “leave no one behind” agendas. This analysis aims to reach the poorest and most marginalised groups but require proactive measures that address inequalities among individuals (i.e. men and women in the same household, or women of different ages) and groups (i.e. rural, urban, indigenous, etc.).

Methodology and limitations

To understand the different approaches to each of the four policy areas – and their relevance to and effectiveness in different contexts – the research team conducted:

  • A literature review to identify the main entry points and policy options for addressing unpaid care work in each of the domains.

  • Three in-country research visits to Brazil, Kenya and Nepal. Interviews were held regarding selected initiatives linked to each of the different policy domains, with the focus primarily on public sector provision.

  • A cross-country analysis of the specific initiatives identified, drawing also on wider evidence from existing research, to identify similarities and differences of approaches and actors in different contexts.

  • Brazil, Kenya and Nepal were selected for analysis from a shortlist of countries; each had existing initiatives to address unpaid care work, across at least three of the four policy domains. Other considerations in selecting the focus countries were:

  • Geographical representation.

  • Level of economic development – with one low-income, one lower middle-income and one upper middle-income country.1

  • The level of policy attention given to addressing unpaid care work.2

Box A.1. Policy environment for unpaid care work in Nepal, Kenya and Brazil

In Nepal, while there are no concrete policies relating to unpaid care work, evidence of growing recognition of the issue is reflected in its inclusion in the Constitution, which states the “need to evaluate economically this work and contribution such as maintenance of children and care of families”. Women’s movements were instrumental in having unpaid care work included in the Constitution. The country has not yet conducted a time use survey.

In addition, the government has formally adopted gender responsive budgeting and works with local administrations to adhere to its guidelines, which include references to women’s care work and time use. Local governments are urged to allocate 15% of their budgets to gender issues, and recognise unpaid care work by contributing to NGO and community childcare initiatives.

In general, unpaid care work issues are not seen as an “urgent” or priority issue – unlike, for example, violence against women – even among women’s organisations. Two international NGOs (Oxfam and ActionAid) are the only developmental actors that seek to address unpaid care work directly in their strategic programming.

Brazil has had relatively strong interventions by women’s organisations and feminist groups with regard to unpaid care work advocating for crèches that goes back to the 1970s. However, both bureaucratic inertia and federalism constitute major challenges, as the municipal governments are not fully reimbursed for educational expenses, and the reimbursement for crèches and preschools is even lower.

The Brazilian Constitution provides for free day care and preschool for children up to age six; a family allowance; maternity and paternity leave; and unemployment insurance. The government also mandates childcare provisions and breastfeeding areas for private employers with at least 30 women employees over 16 years of age (IFC, 2017[2]).

In addition, the Secretariat for Women’s Policies in Brazil works with UN Women and Promundo to change gender norms in order to promote shared responsibility within the household. In the past, the focus of the government has been on paid care by domestic workers, and a 2015 law recognised paid domestic work as equal to other private sector work.

In Kenya, the Constitution (2010) makes specific reference to women’s and men’s “right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres”. The Constitution further stipulates the shared responsibility of both parents to care for their children [art.53 (1) (e)]. The Women’s National Charter, developed in 2012, requires that government recognise, quantify and redistribute the unpaid work of women in the home. The country has not conducted a time use survey. Specifically, the Charter states that the government should “[t]ake legislative and policy measures to recognize, quantify and place equal economic value on the work of women in the home as that performed in the formal public sector”. In 2017, the government extended maternity leave for women in the formal work force to six months in an effort to address child malnutrition and encourage breastfeeding.

NGOS are working in Kenya to address unpaid care work directly in their strategic programming. In general, though, unpaid care work often is not considered as important as other concerns during policy design, such as health, energy and environmental issues. At the same time, there is a window for non-governmental organisations to bring unpaid care onto the table while promoting social norm change. For example, Oxfam and Femnet work with men to challenge masculinities; as part of their wider programme agenda, ActionAid and UN Women work with women and men in communities to understand unpaid care work.

For each country, the researcher aimed to conduct interviews with:

  • at least one policy maker or civil servant responsible for and/or knowledgeable on activities related to unpaid care work, in each of the policy areas

  • representatives from organisations that directly implement programmes with the specific intent of achieving, or a likelihood of having an impact on, one or more of the 3Rs of unpaid care work

  • representatives of national women’s organisations or coalitions and/or academic researchers active in the field of unpaid care, to learn more about general developments in the area as well as to get a different perspective.

The country research used for the analysis greatly depended on the number and type of respondents, which in practice varied across countries according to existing networks, timing and availabilities.

Identification of “what works” is limited by the early stage of implementation of some of the initiatives identified; by whether they were designed with any intent to address unpaid care work; and by whether their impacts on unpaid care work were or are being systematically monitored or evaluated. Where evaluation studies were identified, relatively few of these dealt with unpaid care work dimensions directly. Secondary sources were used where available to identify other promising approaches and entry points to address the reduction, recognition and redistribution of unpaid care work in the three countries.


← 1. According to World Bank classification. knowledgebase/articles/906519-world-bank-country-and-lending-groups.

← 2. Based on OECD categorisation of data from 38 countries that engaged in the 2017 voluntary national reviews on the SDGs, as reported to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

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