Care in the Agenda of Latin America and the Caribbean

December 12, 2023

The average time women dedicate to unpaid work is 2 to 4 times higher than that of men in all countries.

The gendered division of labor assigns disproportionately heavy caregiving responsibilities to women and girls. The unequal distribution of care has significant impacts on women's lives, particularly on their economic autonomy. Women generally participate less in the workforce than men, and when they do, they work fewer paid hours. The average time women dedicate to unpaid work is 2 to 4 times higher than that of men in all countries. During the pandemic, which exacerbated this caregiving crisis, countries implemented measures to mitigate its impact on the population. However, from a gender perspective, these measures were not enough: in November 2021, of the 766 social protection and labor market measures adopted in the region, according to the COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker, only 33 directly addressed unpaid care—representing only 4% of the total. There is still a long way to go.

Factors like economic exclusion can make individuals more vulnerable to violence. For example, unpaid women caregivers, who depend on other household members for income, are in a more vulnerable situation to violence against women and girls (VAWG). Each year, VAWG affects millions of women and girls of all ages and social conditions worldwide. At least a third of them experience violence for gender-related reasons, expressed in a continuum of manifestations, both in public and private spheres, which can culminate in femicide. Additionally, in crisis situations, levels of VAWG tend to increase, and gender roles are reinforced.

Addressing this situation requires action on multiple fronts, including recognizing and reducing unpaid care and domestic work through, among other things, greater access to care services.

As the UNDP Human Development Report indicates, the multiple crises and uncertainties we face in the region can be an opportunity for structural change. It is necessary to rethink social protection systems to contribute to ensuring the right to care. This is key to addressing unequal relationships between men and women.

Currently, UNDP collaborates with partners in the region to address these challenges and move towards a new social organization of care that is fair and equitable, promoting the development of comprehensive care policies and systems in the region. Some examples include the implementation of the Care Georeferencing Tool, which analyzes information on the supply and demand for care services in a specific territory. The application of the care services costing tool, in turn, allows exploring scenarios of care services and transfers with different coverage levels in the countries of the region.

Likewise, UNDP supported Panamá in establishing a critical path to build a comprehensive care system; El Salvador in the implementation of its social protection system; the Dominican Republic in the construction of a social protection system with a gender perspective; Peru in the development of a conceptual framework of care, and Bolivia in the diagnosis of the quality of care programs and activities at the state and private levels in the main cities of the country.

Achieving a care society involves taking a comprehensive approach that considers the care of individuals, society, and the planet. Similarly, it requires placing recognition, redistribution, and reduction of unpaid care work at the center to ensure the right to care and advance towards gender equality.

UNDP is firmly committed to continuing supporting countries in the region in the implementation and consolidation of their national and local care systems, following the guidelines of the UNDP Regional Gender Equality Strategy 2023-2025 for Latin America and the Caribbean, thus contributing to the development of sustainable, egalitarian, and secure societies for all.