Unpaid Care Work: The missing link in the analysis of gender gaps in labour outcomes

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
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International / Global
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Policy Paper
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This policy brief argues that gender inequality in unpaid care work is the missing link that influences gender gaps in labour outcomes. The gender gap in unpaid care work has significant implications for women’s ability to actively take part in the labour market and the type/quality of employment opportunities available to them. Time is a limited resource, which is divided between labour and leisure, productive and reproductive activities, paid and unpaid work. Every minute more that a woman spends on unpaid care work represents one minute less that she could be potentially spending on market-related activities or investing in her educational and vocational skills.

This policy brief analyses the impact of gender gaps in time devoted to unpaid care activities on gender gaps in labour outcomes. The first section provides an overview of gender inequalities in caring responsibilities. The second section shows that gender inequalities in unpaid care work are related to gender gaps in labour outcomes, such as labour participation, wages and job quality. The third sections assess the key role of discriminatory social institutions for understanding gender inequalities in unpaid care work. Finally, the fourth section proposes policy recommendations to lift the constraints on women’s time by both reducing the burden of unpaid care work borne by women as well as redistributing the caring responsibilities between women and men, and between the family and the State.

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