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Care work is essential for personal wellbeing, a healthy society and a functioning economy. But across the world, it is overwhelmingly done by women, which restricts their opportunities. Policy makers rarely recognize the public responsibility for facilitating unpaid care and domestic work through investments in infrastructure and care services.

In 2017, Oxfam’s Women’s Economic Empowerment and Care (WE-Care) initiative conducted a Household Care Survey (HCS), collecting data in the Philippines, Uganda and Zimbabwe, to inform the design of public policies and local development programmes. The study tests which infrastructure, equipment and other factors influence care-work patterns. It finds that access to improved water sources is associated with reduced hours of care work, and household equipment facilitates men’s participation in care. It also finds that heavy workloads related to long hours of unpaid care can impact women’s health and well-being. Perceptions of care work, community expectations and fear of sanctions for deviating from social norms play an essential part in maintaining the gendered division of care work.

The report presents recommendations for government and private sector decision-makers, development practitioners and researchers in the area of women’s economic empowerment on how they can contribute to facilitate the recognition, reduction and redistribution of unpaid care work.

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