Can Unpaid Labour Drive Economy?

UNDP and Sweden Support Students' Essay Contest on Care Economy

November 8, 2023
Megi Surmanidze, Student, Winner of the UNDP and Sweden Essay Contest on Care Economy

Megi Surmanidze, Batumi Shota Rustaveli State University. Winner of the UNDP and Sweden Essay Contest on Care Economy

See more blogs on the same topic:
Care economy, social roles and statistics 

The shortcomings within the care economy at the level of state policies are currently a prominent issue, involving inadequate tools to establish equitable caregiving policies within families. The fundamental requisites for effective policies include flexibility and consideration for gender sensitivity. In simpler terms, those sections of society burdened by numerous social roles and obligations, both mentally and legally, often experience a lack of attention and support. When did society determine that family care and unrecognized unpaid labour are predominantly women's prerogatives? And that they would not be acknowledged as valuable contributions and not recognized as equally valuable co-workers? Floro's (2012) theory and the issue of care, which was examined as the Care Crisis within the context of state and economic dimensions, manifests itself in various aspects:

  • The escalating ecological crisis impairs the burden and increases the significance of caregiving, particularly in underdeveloped regions and rural areas.
  • This issue continues to affect a segment of society that is tasked with caregiving responsibilities alongside demanding roles, leading to extended working hours.

Given that the efficient utilization of human resources holds significant importance for a state, as it directly impacts the GDP, it becomes crucial to address the challenges faced by individuals who remain outside the scope of income generation. These individuals represent untapped potential within the country and the labour market, often due to unequal family responsibilities and the burden of unpaid labour. As per the Social Development Report, women bear over half of the domestic workload. In developed nations, this figure stands at 51%, while in developing countries, it reaches 53%. As outlined in the 2009 UN report, women's labour, particularly the unpaid caregiving and work they undertake, often goes unrecognized and is deemed less.

Grandmothers and Care Economy 

In Georgia, grandmothers play a substantial role in raising their grandchildren, displaying a remarkably high level of engagement. This phenomenon can be attributed to a blend of factors, such as reservations about employing nannies and financial considerations. Substantial research and practical experiences corroborate the positive impact of frequent interaction with grandmothers on children's behaviour. The European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research has categorized grandmothers' roles in childcare by country, unveiling differences in how they perceive long-term caregiving responsibilities.

Contrasts in attitudes towards extended caretaking roles are evident across different regions. In contrast, China exemplifies a different perspective, where both women and elderly women believe that the optimal way to care for children or grandchildren is through compensation, thereby facilitating educational provisions. Consequently, a substantial 62% of Chinese women showcase exceptional work capacity, contributing to a positive shift in labour market statistics. 

Incorrect societal beliefs that prioritize men as more capable colleagues and leaders have formed an obstacle for women's career advancements. Unseen societal barriers that disproportionately hinder women's career progress are unavoidable. In essence, this phenomenon finds its explanation in the "Glass Ceiling" theory, introduced in 1986. This theory encompasses the notion of invisible barriers, symbolized by glass ceilings, which are a product of societal constructs, and erroneous perceptions surrounding gender roles and responsibilities. 

Education and Healthcare for Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs  

An essential component of the Care Economy involves prioritizing the healthcare and education of citizens. On one hand, family members with disabilities and special needs demand significant attention from the public. They necessitate proper care, medical interventions, tailored educational initiatives, and an inclusive education framework. The principle that "children with disabilities have the right to education to lead a life of dignity" underscores the state's responsibility to ensure their well-being. 

Within educational practices, certain countries' private educational institutions encounter a recurring scenario where inclusive students participate in standard teaching programs. However, this situation gives rise to several problematic issues:

  • Flawed monitoring system for student admissions at the educational institution 
  • Placing inclusive students in an environment where they are susceptible to becoming targets of bullying due to their differences 
  • Imposing additional unpaid labour on teachers who work with both inclusive and non-inclusive students, causing their efforts to go unnoticed 
  • Inclusive students necessitate specialized programs, a tailored curriculum and class frequency. 
  • Family members' efforts and energy directed towards assisting individuals with special needs in matters of mobility, daily tasks, and education represent unpaid caregiving and labour. 
  • Despite women dedicating an average of 45 hours per week to family labour and care, it remains uncompensated, with no corresponding economic or moral recognition for their contributions. 
  • The issue lies in entrenched gender role perceptions and stereotypical notions of which tasks are designated for men and women. These biases influence the extent to which women's commitment to family labour is deemed acceptable, reinforcing the idea of family work as solely a woman's responsibility and assigning them a presumed innate duty. 
  • The state should guarantee the availability of educational programs designed specifically for inclusive students.
  • State intervention through reforms and social programs is essential to reduce the loss of women's labour and financial resources. The state should guarantee the availability of educational programs designed specifically for inclusive students.
  1. T. Pachkoria, S. Mazmishvili: " Inclusive Education, Student at Home and at School"
  2. Project “ Social Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Caucasus Region" Geovel, 2014 
  3. Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia: " Statistics of Inclusive Education in Georgia’’, 2013
  4. Grandparents caring for their grandchildren: Findings from the 2004 Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe. Floro, Maria S. 2012. “The Crises of Environment and Social Reproduction: Understanding their Linkages,” Working Paper, American University, Department of Economics, Washington, D.C. 
  5. Haider, H. 2012. PNPM/Community-Driven Development in Indonesia. GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report. Birmingham: Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham.
  6. How many grandparents are there in the world?, D, Alburez-Guitirrez, 2023; The economist
  7. Morrison A. (1987) Breaking the Glass Ceiling, Reading, MA: Addison Wesley. 
  8. Unemployment rate for females, 2021 - Country rankings  1991–2021, The World Bank
  9. (UNDP) 01 Policy Brief ISSUE OCTOBER 2009 UNPAID CAre WOrk Gender Equality and Poverty Reduction
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.