Care work, both paid and unpaid, is crucial to the future of decent work. Growing populations, ageing societies, changing families, women’s secondary status in labour markets and shortcomings in social policies demand urgent action on the organization of care work from governments, employers, trade unions and individual citizens. If not adequately addressed, current deficits in care service provision and its quality will create a severe and unsustainable global care crisis and increase gender inequalities at work.
The majority of the care work worldwide is undertaken by unpaid carers, mostly women and girls from socially disadvantaged groups. Unpaid care work is a key factor in determining both whether women enter into and stay in employment and the quality of jobs they perform. While care work can be rewarding, when in excess and when involving a high degree of drudgery, it hampers the economic opportunities and well-being of unpaid carers, and diminishes their overall enjoyment of human rights.
Most care workers are women, frequently migrants and working in the informal economy under poor conditions and for low pay. Paid care work will remain an important future source of employment, especially for women. The relational nature of care work limits the potential substitution of robots and other technologies for human labour.
The conditions of unpaid care work impact how unpaid carers enter and remain in paid work, and influence the working conditions of all care workers. This “unpaid care work–paid work–paid care work circle” also affects gender inequalities in paid work outside the care economy and has implications for gender equality within households as well as for women’s and men’s ability to provide unpaid care work.