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Enabling Women’s Economic Empowerment

New Approaches to Unpaid Care Work in Developing Countries

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Women’s unequal share of unpaid care work can prevent their full participation in the economies of developing countries; however, care needs are growing globally. How can governments and development partners meet the needs of families and communities, while ensuring that all citizens benefit from economic opportunities and fair remuneration? As part of the OECD Policy Dialogue on Women’s Economic Empowerment, this report focuses on identifying what works to address unpaid care work and sheds light on how governments, donors in the private sector and civil society actors – among others – can design policies to support both those who need care and those who provide care. The report brings together existing knowledge of policy options for unpaid care work across regions, in four policy areas: infrastructure, social protection, public services and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household.

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Executive summary

Around the world, women undertake the bulk of unpaid care work – a fact that has had a considerably negative impact on their ability to participate fully in the economy. The development community has recently stepped up its commitment to women’s economic empowerment, recognising it as a lever of inclusive, sustainable growth. Yet progress on that agenda remains slow, due to the structural and social barriers blocking women from accessing labour markets and economic opportunities. These barriers are especially high in developing countries, where they are more likely to be in informal employment, public services and infrastructure may not be well developed, and women’s unpaid care responsibilities are the heaviest. Indeed, as care needs continue to grow globally throughout ageing societies, women will continue to be disproportionately impacted by the lack of social and physical infrastructure necessary for care.

English

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