The UN entity and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), convened High-Level representatives from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for an in-depth discussion on the urgency of addressing the care economy and the impact on women, who comprise the majority of unpaid care workers.
Rising demand for care in the context of the COVID-19 crisis and response has deepened already-existing inequalities in the gendered division of labour, placing a disproportionate burden on women and girls with potential long-term implications for their health, wellbeing and economic empowerment. The full potential and sustainability of economic recovery requires the care sector to be functioning well. Global studies have demonstrated that investments in care services and infrastructure can potentially create up to 2.5 more jobs than investments in regular infrastructure.
The virtual roundtable provided the opportunity for representatives to share strategies that are effective, experiences, practical initiatives, and collaborations that are integrating social protection into economic recovery.
Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka reflected on the ‘5R Strategy’ for addressing unpaid care work in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which includes recognizing unpaid care work through measurement and data collection; reducing unpaid care work through the universal provision of services (i.e. daycare services); redistributing unpaid care work within homes, between men and women, and with the state and the private sector through policies and programmes; rewarding paid care work in line with decent work remuneration; and representation of care workers in social dialogue and collective bargaining.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka further said, “This conversation was an important opportunity to discuss how the Caribbean will build back better from the COVID-19 crisis. We heard about timely and comprehensive social protection interventions by the region’s governments – many with the support of the private sector – to address economic hardship and job losses, as well as initiatives to support families. At UN Women, we are committed to continuing to support the Governments and the people of the Caribbean in developing policies and programmes that address the needs of women, both in the private sector and in the informal sector, to ensure no one is left behind in the rebuilding of the region’s economies.”
CARICOM, with technical support from UN Women, has agreed to measure unpaid care and domestic work though the 2020 Round of Census, with Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago piloting this methodology.
Therese Turner-Jones, General Manager of the Caribbean Country Department, IDB, pointed to a recent survey of Caribbean households conducted by the IDB. It showed that the pandemic has had a greater negative effect on women’s employment, nutrition, and safety.
The participants called for sustained investments in the care economy to be at the centre of efforts to ‘build back better’ and to focus on redressing long-standing gender inequalities in paid work and unpaid care.