Insights into Care Economy

UNDP and Sweden Support Students' Essay Contest on Care Economy

November 8, 2023

Lika Ablotia, Tbilisi State University . Winner of the UNDP and Sweden Essay Contest on Care Economy

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Key findings
  • In Georgia, the standards of the care economy are inadequately established, and state policies do not prioritize the development of the purple economy.
  • Paid work in caregiving is undervalued and inadequately remunerated, while a significant amount of unpaid work goes unrecognized. Additionally, informal paid caregiving remains unacknowledged, leaving employees in this sector without proper labour rights protection. 
  • Public awareness about the care economy in Georgia is extremely low, and effective measures to enhance it are lacking. Gender stereotypes in Georgia hinder women's economic empowerment and career advancement by limiting equal opportunities. 
  • Low female participation in political and economic activities in Georgia is largely due to the significant amount of low-paid or unpaid caregiving work. The types and amounts of social benefits available are insufficient and do not meet international standards.
  • Georgia's Labor Code does not actively encourage men to take on greater roles in child care, thus hindering the achievement of a more balanced gender distribution in caregiving responsibilities.  

The care economy (the purple economy), is a crucial component of the welfare state. It encompasses activities aimed at improving the physical, social, mental, and emotional well-being of care-dependent groups, such as children, the elderly, the sick, disabled individuals, adolescents, and others. The purple economy plays a central role in ensuring the overall functionality and well-being of society as a whole.

The care economy includes paid (employed in the formal and informal sectors) and unpaid work through which care is provided for others. Care responsibilities can be broadly categorized into two groups: those carried out within the home and those performed outside of it. For example, childcare providers and health workers, pre-school and school teachers provide care in the formal market based on remuneration, outside their families and homes, but often this type of work is underestimated as the remuneration is low and unfair. On the other hand, nannies, for instance, may provide paid care in the informal market, and their labour rights are frequently neither recognized nor adequately regulated or protected. It's essential to highlight that the majority of caregiving work remains unpaid and primarily includes household activities such as cooking, washing, tidying, cleaning, and looking after family members, including child care, among other responsibilities.

In every state, there exist vulnerable groups in need of care and assistance, and the interaction between these groups and the entities that provide care and support gives rise to what is known as the care economy. The key actors responsible for the development of the care economy can be conventionally divided into two categories: 

  1. State and private sector (charitable organizations) 
  2. Individuals who care for others.

The care economy is directly related to feminism and women's rights. Women represent 46% of the global workforce and perform 2/3 of paid caregiving activities. In addition, they represent an absolute majority of those working in the field of healthcare (89%) and child care (94%). Although their work is paid, in the USA, workers in this field receive half of the salary of an employed American with an average statistical income.

Women are still mostly engaged in unpaid work and family work. In the world, 75% of unpaid work is done by women. Women living in rural areas in low-income countries spend 14 hours a day on unpaid care work. Additionally, 42% of women worldwide are unable to work because they are responsible for care-related activities, which gives significant dissonance compared with men, at just 6%. Women in the care economy are an important force in the world providing care, but they are not paid for it. Imposing the burden of unpaid work primarily on women indeed creates artificial barriers to their self-realization, career advancement, and even their ability to allocate time for personal pleasure and leisure, all on an equal footing with men.

The care economy needs to be developed in healthy and democratic ways, for which states must ensure social equality for those who participate in it. For the purposes of this article, it is expedient to analyze the successful examples of foreign countries and then evaluate what can be relevant for Georgia.


Finland is one of the leading welfare states, boasting a well-developed care economy and a dedicated state policy. In Finland, there is support for families with preschool children to be raised at home (they do not go to kindergarten). For raising a child under 3 at home, the state pays the family 338 Euros as support, and for a child between 3 and 6, the amount is smaller. The purpose of this support is to give a family and more importantly a woman the opportunity to make a choice. The majority of women in Finland are employed. Therefore, if a woman chooses to care for her child at home, the family's income decreases. Conversely, if a mother decides to enrol her child in kindergarten and continue working, her choice to stay at home is limited. To address this dilemma, Finland has implemented social assistance programs for families who opt to raise their children at home. Additionally, Finland offers paid paternity leave to fathers. Also, there is a so-called package for mothers, which is an important social innovation that has no analogues in the world in terms of the scope and content of the support. It is a kind of kit with quality and beautiful, practical clothes for a mother and a baby, baby care products, baby-friendly books and other essentials. In addition to taking care of children, Finland also helps the population to take care of their relatives (family members, close relatives). It includes care services, fees and other services. The minimum amount of the fee is 393 Euros per month, and if a person is obliged to leave the job temporarily, then the fee is 784 Euros. Other Scandinavian countries have approximately similar social programs. For example, there is an allowance for child care up to the age of 8 in Sweden, given to a parent who stops working, studying or searching for a job for this reason (minimum daily amount 250 kroner, maximum - 952 kroner); housing benefit (to pay for housing costs), temporary assistance given to an employed parent while caring for a sick child under 12 (up to the age of 16 or 18 if a child is seriously ill and needs constant attention) and more. Both countries stand out for their achievements in gender balance, comprehensive social packages, and diverse offerings.

In addition to the Scandinavian countries, there are also well-developed care economy models in other European countries. E.g.: In France, pregnancy and maternity benefits are granted not only to employed women but also to jobseekers or temporarily unemployed (within the last 12 months). In addition, the amount of assistance for mothers is quite high, a maximum of approximately 86 euros per day. There is also an allowance for fathers, including those who are temporarily unemployed (within the last 12 months). There is a social security code that provides a number of benefits for families in France (even if the family members are unemployed). The typical cash assistance amount averages at 422 euros. Furthermore, there exists a Fixed Allowance aimed at families with a minimum of 3 children (all under the age of 20 and with an income not surpassing 982.42 euros). Additionally, upon the birth of a child, all families receive a one-time allowance of around 970 euros to assist with essential expenses. Intriguingly, similar to Finland, France also extends support to families /parents caring for their children up to 6 years old. The government aids working parents in covering children’s nannies or kindergarten costs, offering a maximum disbursement of approximately 481 euros (for children aged 0-3 years) and 240 euros (for children aged 3-6 years).

Germany also offers several social packages, including the so-called Parental Allowance, which entails providing a payment of at least 67% of the combined earnings of both parents over the 12 months preceding the birth. The payment is subject to a monthly limit of around 1,800 euros. If parents are unemployed, a limit of 300 euros is set for the payment.

The Eastern European country model can be illustrated using the Czech Republic as an example. In the Czech Republic, families receive a one-time financial assistance of around 530 euros to assist with essential expenses following the birth of a child. Furthermore, the Czech Republic has established a versatile system of financial aid for parents in terms of child care, known as the Flexible Parental Allowance. Parents can opt for parental leave until their child turns 3 years old, with the availability of 1, 2, 3, and 4-year packages. Moreover, parents can hold a paid job while simultaneously receiving child support. The Czech Republic witnesses relatively low participation of men in taking paternity leave, despite occasional initiatives such as television documentaries about fathers who choose paternity leave. These campaigns have sparked significant interest and raised public awareness regarding this matter. Such informational campaigns have indeed yielded notably positive outcomes in promoting gender equality. Furthermore, it's intriguing to note that the Czech Republic has a distinctive caregiving allowance in place, which is granted to individuals who have a sick family member at home or a child under 10 years old. When the child's kindergarten or school is closed, for instance, due to quarantine, and requires supervision. Furthermore, there exists the Long-term Care Allowance (Dlouhodobé ošetřovné) which is granted when an individual is temporarily unable to work due to providing care for a family member or relative facing a severe deterioration in health and requires at least 7 days of hospitalization and/or a minimum of 30 days of home care. Additionally, the Czech Republic employs the concept of a Guaranteed Minimum Income. This involves the state offering financial aid to families whose income falls below the subsistence minimum. The state covers the difference between the subsistence minimum and the family's income.

Regarding the Baltic countries – Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia,  share remarkably similar approaches when it comes to developing social programs and care economies. All three countries have instituted family support programs for childbirth and child care. 

In Lithuania, parents receive a benefit for having a child amounting to 75% of the basic allowance if their child is under 2 years old and for children aged 2 to 18 years (up to 21 years if the young individual is a student), the benefit is provided at a rate of 40%. 

Similarly, in Latvia, families with children aged 1-15 (extending up to 20 years if the individual is a student) receive a comparable type of benefit. In Latvia, there exists a childcare allowance for parents with children under 2 years of age, which totals 171 euros per month. Additionally, there is a one-time support payment provided following the birth of a child or an adoption, amounting to approximately 421 euros.

As for Estonia, there is also a child allowance, which is given for having a child under the age of 16 (up to 19 if he is a student) in the amount of 55 euros per month for the first two children, and 100 euros per month for the third and subsequent ones. Additionally, a childcare allowance is available for parents responsible for caring for children under the age of 3. This allowance amounts to approximately 76.7 Euros.

Ukraine, a post-Soviet country, holds significant similarities with Georgia. The country assists parents upon the birth of a child, although the assistance is not one-time. The assistance amount (as of 2018) stands at 41,280 hryvnias. Out of this, 10,320 hryvnias are granted to parents for essential needs immediately after the child's birth. The remaining portion is given to the family in the form of monthly payments until the child reaches 3 years of age.

Support for the advancement of the care economy is being effectively implemented at a notable level, in countries such as Canada. The country offers child benefits that are disbursed to the child's guardian until the child reaches 18 years of age. To qualify for the benefit, the child's guardian is required to submit an annual income declaration. The allowance is provided to families with an income not exceeding 31,120 Canadian dollars per year; if the income surpasses this threshold, the allowance is reduced accordingly. The base amount for a child under 6 years old is approximately CAD 6,639 per year, translating to roughly CAD 553.25 per month. For children aged 6-18, the assistance amount is CAD 5,602 per year, which equates to approximately CAD 466.83 per month.

Regarding the development of the care economy in Georgia, it's evident that it currently stands at a relatively low level. The variety and magnitude of social benefits offered are rather limited (existing monetary benefits are very small) and fall short of international standards. 

The state policy in Georgia is not directed towards the advancement of the care economy. While standard social benefits are present in Georgia, such as maternity leave, social assistance, disability and old-age pensions, as well as targeted benefits for specific groups like residents of mountainous areas, displaced individuals, disabled children, and parents with many children (in certain regions), the country lacks social benefits similar to those found in European nations that emphasize family-friendly policies, such as parental assistance for child care and unified approaches for single or multiple childbirths supports. Furthermore, the labour market in Georgia lacks sufficient regulation to guarantee gender balance, equal pay, and equitable career advancement. This observation is substantiated by data from the Public Service Bureau, which indicates, that in 2022, there were 676 men and 344 women in rank I positions (2 times less), while in rank IV positions, there were 20,397 men and only 4,386 women (nearly 5 times less). 

Moreover, the situation in Georgia is compounded by the reluctance of private companies to hire women in senior positions, driven by the anticipation of maternity leave. Women also encounter lower participation in leadership roles across governance activities, encompassing fields like politics, public service, and business. For instance, in 2014, approximately 50% of the Georgian population held the belief that men are better managers than women. 

Women in Georgia tend to be predominantly engaged in what are often labelled as "feminine" professions, primarily centred around caregiving roles. The care economy aspects in Georgia remain underdeveloped. Paid caregiving is inadequately valued. The majority of individuals working in caregiving roles, such as nurses, teachers, and healthcare workers, are women (making up 62% of the workforce in this sector), whose wages tend to be minimal, and the working conditions (insurance and other benefits) are not fair. For example, the case of nurses, who consistently stand on the frontline and are responsible for patient care receive a minimal salary (around 300 GEL), and their working conditions are frequently not satisfactory, occasionally even poor. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this issue. The need for nurses' care became evident, however, their working conditions further deteriorated in some instances – their working hours extended, inadequate protection from the virus, and other challenges emerged. Furthermore, the labour rights of individuals working in the informal sector (paid care) as nannies, family helpers, and cleaners, are commonly overlooked and lack adequate protection. 

The pandemic highlighted the urgency of regulating these informal yet compensated forms of labour. There exists a substantial portion of unpaid labour, primarily undertaken by women, In Georgia. On the one hand, the lack of comprehensive social programs in Georgia hinders the development of the care economy. In Georgia, there are no benefits such as one-time cash assistance for all mothers upon childbirth (this benefit does not operate everywhere in the same way), an allowance for temporarily unemployed mothers (with the current benefit only applicable to employed women during maternity leave), childcare allowances, benefits for caregiving responsibilities for family members or relatives and others. On the other hand, the societal attitudes and perceptions towards unpaid care and work are problematic. In Georgia, deeply ingrained beliefs persist, suggesting that women should be responsible for domestic duties, even if they are employed. Moreover, the prevailing notion is that childcare primarily falls under the domain of the mother, while fathers tend to have a lesser role in the upbringing process. Additionally, women often find themselves obligated to care for other family members when they fall ill. The data from Sakstat reveals that merely 40% of Georgian women are formally employed, while the remaining( 60%) are untapped resources for the labour market. Consequently, according to the World Bank's statistics, Georgia faces a loss of over 11% of its gross domestic product per capita; The findings from a study conducted by UN Women reveal that 49% of surveyed unemployed women indicated that reasons such as family caregiving responsibilities, inadequate pay at work, or a combination of both, were factors contributing to their unemployment. Furthermore, the study indicates that surveyed housewives allocate 74% of their time to caring for family/personal matters. This amounts to approximately 45 hours per week( which is three times greater than the time dedicated by men) and is equivalent to full-time employment.

In the article, the investigation into practices of foreign nations and a comparative-legal analysis of successful examples in various countries and comparison with Georgia, have led to the identification of challenges linked to the care economy. As a result of this research, it has been concluded that several effective measures are imperative to foster the development of the care economy in Georgia. Namely:

  • In Georgia, it is imperative to foster the development of a care economy. Relevant measures should be taken in both paid and unpaid care sectors, including the provision of enhanced social benefits and packages, support for gender-sensitive family policies, and the adoption of the International Labour Organization's (ILO) 5R framework principles—recognition, reduction, redistribution, rewarding, and representation -is crucial.
  • More attention should be paid to care services in Georgia. The predominantly female workforce within this sector should be given fair and equitable compensation for their work. For instance, considering that the average nurse's salary in Georgia is 300 GEL, doubling this amount would mark a reasonable starting point. Apart from this, improving working conditions - such as insurance coverage, proper vacation time, and the regulation of working hours is imperative.
  • Recognizing the significance of informal paid activities and enacting appropriate regulations within the Labor Code is a pivotal step toward safeguarding the labour rights of employees in this sector.
  • Beyond the state-provided benefits, there is a pressing need to gradually transform the deeply ingrained societal perceptions surrounding gender roles. This can be achieved through enhancing public awareness, fostering increased female participation in political, economic, and social domains, and facilitating their engagement in high-paying and influential roles, etc.
  • To formulate a gender-sensitive family support policy, it is imperative to conduct information campaigns that raise the awareness of the general public. For instance the Czech Republic’s example of broadcasting documentaries on television portraying fathers who have undertaken parental leave to care for their children. Furthermore, targeted training sessions and awareness campaigns can be implemented.
  • Georgia's Labor Code should be amended and, like Finland, the number of paid leave days for child care for men should be increased to at least 150 days. This will allow women to have equal opportunities for employment and work with men.
  • Georgia would greatly benefit from considering the implementation of a practice similar to Finland's highly effective "A Package for Mothers." This initiative involves providing new mothers with a comprehensive package containing essential items for both the newborn and the mother after childbirth.
  • The Georgian government must provide financial support not only to employed mothers but also to those seeking employment or temporarily unemployed (French Approach). A woman can qualify for an assistance if she has been unemployed or is seeking a job only for the last, for example, 12 months.
  • Georgia should implement a one-time support system for parents after childbirth, similar to practices in Poland, the Czech Republic, and numerous other European countries. This support should be accessible to all mothers, regardless of their employment status. Inspiration from Ukraine's approach of disbursing funds in installments, rather than all at once, can be drawn.
  • The state should provide a guaranteed minimum income for families, which means compensation of the difference between the subsistence minimum and the family income by the state, etc.
  • In the long term, Georgia can progressively introduce comprehensive social packages and assistance programs similar to those discussed in the article, for instance: Parent/Family Allowance: entailing a monthly monetary provision for child-rearing expenses(that is continued until the child reaches a specific age); Caregiver Support: supporting individuals, (mostly women), who care for sick family members or relatives, etc.  
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  3. “Coronavirus Pandemic and Remuneration of Nurses”, A. Japaridze., R. Karanadze, A. Gasviani, 2021. 
  4. Georgian Civil Service Statistics, 2022
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  17. Social Security Programs Throughout the World: Europe, 2018, Latvia
  18. Social Security Programs Throughout the World: Europe, 2018, Lithuania
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  22. The Global Care Economy, Global Health & Gender Policy Brief, No 1, April 2022
  23. What is the care economy?, The Care Economy Knowledge Hub,
Students' essay contest on the care economy was supported by UNDP and Sweden as part of the Sweden-funded UN Joint Programme for Gender Equality. This landmark initiative assists Georgia in making social, economic and policy strides toward achieving meaningful gender equality for everyone, everywhere. The programme is implemented jointly by three UN agencies – UNDP, UNFPA and UN Women.