Care work is to be found in a variety of settings and across formal and informal economies. Some of this care is provided by the health services sector, most of which is formal and public. Public services for childcare, early childhood education, disability and long-term care, as well as elder care, are other areas comprising the care economy.
Yet health and social services overlap with other forms of paid and unpaid care that is given, for example, by family and community members often because there is a lack of access to quality services. Some governments may depend on women's and girls’ underpaid or unpaid work to deliver, or even replace, public services as they seek to limit the financial burden on the State.
Finding solutions to care work is a challenge faced by an increasing number of women entering the workforce as they seek to simultaneously fulfill their responsibilities in bearing and raising the next generations.
At the same time, the world's population is living longer than at any other time in history. Populations of all countries are ageing, even in countries that currently have comparatively high fertility rates but lower life expectancy at birth. Provision of care for persons with short-term or with chronic sicknesses and/or disabilities also needs to be considered. Care for the elderly and the sick often falls on women and girls.
The care economy is growing as the demand for childcare and elder care is increasing in all regions. It will thus create a great number of jobs in the coming years. However, care work across the world remains characterised by a void of benefits and protections, low wages or non-compensation, and exposure to physical, mental and, in some cases, sexual harm. It is clear that new solutions to care are needed on two fronts: in regards to the nature and provision of care services, and the terms and conditions of care work.