Call #7 - Gender and Economics

“The gendered aspect of care work.”

You are welcome to send your research abstract to The Gender and Economics Working Group which will be held on 22nd – 24th February 2019 at the North America YSI Convening.  In this interdisciplinary call for abstracts, we encourage papers from a wide spectrum of academic disciplines. Some potential topics of discussion, with a special focus on policy implication, are as follows:

  • The unequal distribution of unpaid care work within the household and its consequences;
  • Care work and the labor market;
  •  The social organization of care. How care work is shared among different actors: the State, the market, the household, the society;
  • Care work and welfare states;
  • The impact of economic policies on care work, paid and unpaid;
  • Social reproduction theory;
  • The global economy and care work;
  • Global care chains;
  • Estimating the value of unpaid care work.

Abstracts that analyze the gendered aspect of care work in other forms, different from those mentioned above, will also be considered.

Care work represents a relevant wedge of the economy, but the fact that it is declined in different forms across different areas (paid care work in the public or private sector, unpaid care work in the household or society) results in an underestimation of its value.

The direct consequence of such underestimation of care work is one of the major causes of gender inequality. Women perform the most of care work, both paid and unpaid. For what concerns unpaid care work, there is, first of all, a problem of recognition. In the household, unpaid care work is, usually, not even considered as work. And, given that unpaid care work is not equally distributed among the members of the household, this has a direct impact on the possibility of women in engaging into paid work. Moreover, the fact that women and its value mostly perform unpaid care work in the household is underrecognized determines the underestimation of paid care work. Therefore, care work is low remunerated and performed by the weakest classes of workers, as women (who are discriminated against because of their care responsibilities), migrants, women migrants, etc.

The unequal burden of unpaid care work that falls on women has already been addressed in the past. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) highlighted the role of the unequal distribution of unpaid work between women and men as a barrier to gender equality (UN Women (2018)). Nevertheless, progress has been scarce. On the one hand, data collection is still limited, as most countries do not carry out time use surveys on a regular basis. On the other hand, in the last years, we have witnessed an increase on austerity measures that involve cutting public spending on care policies and public care provision in general, which increases the burden of household in the provision of care.

When exploring the causes behind the prevalence of gender inequalities in the labor market, although it is possible to identify multiple factors that contribute to this phenomenon, it is clear that the unequal distribution of unpaid care work within the household is at the very core of this problem. Even though women have been engaging increasingly in the labor market for decades, unpaid care work remains primarily as their responsibility, which limits their time available to participate in paid activities. These inequalities persist all around the globe: on average, women allocate between three to six hours to these activities, while men only spend on them between half an hour and two hours per day. Although it is possible to identify regional disparities (the gap is wider in middle or low-income countries), the unequal distribution is a general feature: estimations suggest that women undertake 75% of the world’s total unpaid care and domestic work.

Feminist economists engaged with care work in all its aspects. Probably one of the most famous outcomes of this analysis is Diane Elson’s “Triple R’s Framework.” This framework can include most of the issues related to unpaid (but also paid) care work. Elson affirms that unpaid domestic work needs to be recognized, reduced and redistributed. She highlights that unpaid domestic work is invisible to most conventional economic policymakers, also because there are no regular yearly statistics on this work.

Moreover, unpaid domestic work can, and should, be reduced by investment in labor-saving technology, some of its investment within households, much of it via public finance. Finally, we would not want to eliminate unpaid care work. We want both times free from care, and also time to care for our loved ones. What is required is to redistribute the remaining unpaid domestic and care work so that men and boys do more of it.


Apply here:
Deadline: 18 December 2018