Care service should be brought into the main stream labour market: study

Care service should be brought into the main stream labour market: study


Dhaka November 20 2021:


Care service should be brought into the main stream labour market.

Government can play vital role in providing related education and training.

Gender sensitive curriculum, awareness raising programs (by the Govt. and NGOs) should be prioritized.

 Investment in infrastructure can ease women’s responsibility related to domestic and care work.  

We must recognize the critical implications of child marriage, safety and security issues and bring those in resource allocation.  Community based arrangements for the poorer segment of the population can be considered.

Gender budget can serve as a crucial policy tool for integrating care work into policy agenda.

Such observations were derived from a webinar titled “ Integration of Care Economy in Policy Formulation ” jointly organized by SANEM and Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) on Saturday with objective to identify the linkages between public investment in care work, social protection, gender inequalities, and the employment generation of young women of Bangladesh.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that the global employment in care jobs is expected to grow from 206 million to 358 million by 2030 simply based on socio-demographic changes.  

The figure will be even more dramatic to 475 million if governments invest resources to meet the UN sustainable development goal targets on education, health, long-term care and gender equality.

The report also said 1 per cent increase in female employment can increase economic growth by 0.31 per cent in Bangladesh. If taken, the 2021 figure of gross domestic product (GDP) such an increase would have resulted in an additional $11.3 billion in the economy.

Besides, the think tank pointed out issues like how the policy interventions may shape towards recognizing, reducing, and redistributing the unpaid care work of women to explore the economic rationale for increasing public investment in social protection and spending on care work and investment to reduce gender gaps.

M A Mannan, Minister of Planning was the chief guest and Dr Selim Raihan, Executive Director of SANEM moderated the program.

Key note presentation was made by Dr Sayema Haque Bidisha, Research Director of SANEM.

Shaheen Anam, Executive Director, Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), Md. Saiful Islam, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Social Welfare, Baby Rani Karmakar, Joint Secretary, Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance, Dr Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Dr Sheikh Muslima Moon, Additional Director, Department of Women Affairs, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, were panel discussant in the webinar.

Dr Sayema Haque Bidisha in her key note presentation focused on how Bangladesh had performed impressively in a wide range of socio-economic indicators despite remaining many challenges in the front of women’s empowerment.

Though it was drafted in National Women Development Policy 2011 and consecutive National Action Plan for NWDP 2011, National Social Security Strategy (NSSS), one area which requires policy attention is women’s economic contribution and participation in the labour market.

Women spend a significant time in not only marketed but also in non marketed activities, most of which are unpaid care work.

 It is therefore crucial to incorporate both types of activities into policy agenda.

Dr Bidisha said, it is important to consider women’s unaccounted work for recognizing all types of work and providing dignity of labour.

Recognition can reduce domestic violence and one constraints of lower labour force participation of women are care responsibility.

Moreover, it can have implications for health and productivity to make effective implication and efficient allocation of national policies (and budgetary allocation) towards gender centric policies (and resources).

Gender Budget report of Ministry of Finance (MoF) clearly mentions about its importance while sustainable development goals (SDGs) 5.4 emphasizes to recognize and value unpaid care & domestic work.

In order to recognize and value unpaid care work, it is important to follow the 3R: i. Recognize its value ii. Reduce such responsibility iii. Redistribute the work, so that it can raise representation.

 Global Target 5.4.1 for is to reduce the proportion of time spent on unpaid domestic and care work, by sex, age and location (SDG Tracker & UN, 2021).

 National Priority Target 16 for SDG Goal 5 is to Increase the female labour force participation rate to 50 per cent. Background Unpaid care work (UCW) can be defined as Unpaid care giving services for household and family members.

According to SANEM, women’s ‘economic contribution’ can broadly be classified through 3 avenues like Paid (Wage and Self) Employment: Included in National Accounts and counted as Labour Force.

Unpaid family work is a part of the LF and included in the National Accounts without any remuneration and Unpaid, Unrecognized & Unaccounted Domestic Work: not Marketed, not considered as Economic Activity, not in GDP, not in labour force.

Increasing female labour force participation can consequently increase potential GDP growth.

 Women’s participation in the labour market is limited by the lack of childcare facilities, among other things.

 Women with children under five are less likely to join the work force if there are no childcare facilities.

Both from demand and supply side perspective of labour market, care work is crucial.  

Expanding care services can create employment opportunities (both home and abroad)- as such, promotes gender equality in labour market.

 Expanding care services can reduce time limitations on women’s labour and increase female labour force participation.

 Investment in professional early childhood care services can contribute towards human capital.  Dual-earner households are less likely to be poor than single bread winner households.

The different types of child care arrangements (formal, parental and other) available across countries seem to be related to the labour market participation rates of mothers.

There can be direct as well as indirect schemes. Benefits related to care that include social protection schemes e.g. family care or the upbringing of children, and that address them by providing transfers in cash or in kind to persons in need of care or to unpaid carers.  

Benefits in connection with the costs of pregnancy, childbirth, disability and long term care, bringing up of children and caring for other family members, as well as the recognition of care work in social protection schemes for carers, such as in pension schemes.

 In addition to leave policies and care services, social protection benefits related to care include tax rebates and cash-for-care transfers, as well as cash transfer programs and employment programs with a specific care component, such as those supporting permanence within or re-entry to the labour force of persons with family responsibilities.

The Think tank had recommended that Updating of both documents is important.  Though women’s Unpaid Care Work has been mentioned and incorporated in some documents, precise and specific measures are required.  

Social Security Structure has to be reoriented to incorporate a framework acknowledging Unpaid Care Work (UCW).  

Providing benefits through relevant schemes (within NSSS), unpaid care burden of the household can be reduced and LFP can be increased.  

Clarification on accounting of UCW is required.  A renewed approach to national policies for women development is needed in light of COVID-19 pandemic.

Observations on Labour Law According to section 94(1) of the Bangladesh Labour Law (2006), every organization with more than 40 should have a childcare centre. Database is essential.  Under the similar law, constrain of the number (40) can exclude many small organizations. Community facilities should be there for them.

Institutional arrangement is needed to have regular and comprehensive data base with time diary.  The government should undertake necessary policy steps (e.g. committee of experts) towards reforming the estimation practice of SNA to incorporate unaccounted work in national income.

 In government policies as well as in resource allocation, necessary steps (e.g. day care centre-both under community and institution, maternity leave, child care voucher etc.) through fiscal incentives like tax rebate/credit facilities should be there to incentivize the private sector.

South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) jointly with Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) is working to help make the unpaid care work concept more integrated and recognized through gender-responsive policy and budget allocation.

Academics, activists, social workers, policy formulators and journalists from different medias of the country, among others, took part in the webinar.