Care Work



  • About the ILO: The ILO is the UN specialized agency with a mandate and expertise in decent work including care work. The ILO provides technical assistance to governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations and facilitates dialogue to better the lives of care workers, who are mainly women. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the ILO also manages development cooperation projects with diverse partners, including the European Union, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and different UN agencies.
  • Key definitions in care work: Care work consists of two overlapping activities: direct, personal and relational care activities, such as feeding a baby or nursing an ill partner; and indirect care activities, such as cooking and cleaning. Unpaid care work is care work provided without a monetary reward by unpaid carers who may as well be family members. Paid care work is performed for pay or profit by care workers. They comprise a wide range of personal service workers, such as nurses, teachers, doctors and personal care workers. Domestic workers, who provide both direct and indirect care in households. Both unpaid care and paid care work are considered as ‘work’ and are thus a crucial dimension of the world of work. For more information.
  • The ILO has put forward the globally accepted and action-oriented 5R Framework for Decent Care Work to promote a high road to care work by recognizing, reducing and redistributing unpaid housework and family care; rewarding care workers fairly, while generating sufficient care jobs to meet care needs; and representing care workers with rights, voice and representation in decision-making, social dialogue and collective bargaining. The 5R framework implies that good-quality care requires decent work for care workers, which benefits both care providers and recipients, and society as a whole. For more information.

Facts and figures

  • The ILO Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183) and the related Recommendation (No. 191) mandate a minimum maternity leave period of 14 weeks, yet few countries in the region meet this threshold. At the current pace of legal reforms, it will take at least 70 years for the remaining countries in MENA, where nearly 80 million potential mothers live, to fill the current gaps and align to ILO standards on maternity leave.
  • A continuum of care leave policies and care services is essential to guarantee the best early start for children and income security for families, as well as ensuring long-term care services for elderly and disabled persons. The ILO estimates that investing in childcare and long-term care services in 12 MENA countries (Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates) will generate almost 6 million jobs by 2035, of which 5.1 million correspond to direct jobs in childcare, almost 5.3 million to direct jobs in long-term care, and 2.6 million to indirect jobs in non-care sectors. For more info: Care at Work Investing in Care Leave and Services for a More Gender Equal World of Work Companion Regional Report for the Middle East and North Africa
  • Adequate investment in childcare is especially critical - every dollar spent on a care package that extends adequately paid childcare-related leave as well as early childhood care and education services would result in around 3 dollars of GDP increase.
  • Many jobs in the care sector have significant decent work deficits, including poor remuneration, lack of social protection and restrictions on workers to form trade unions. This is particularly the case for the region’s 6.6 million domestic workers. The sector represents a significant proportion of employment in the region, accounting for 12.3 per cent of total employment, but in some cases accounts for between a fifth and a quarter of the labour force.

Publications & Reports

  1. Making decent work a reality for domestic workers in the Middle East: Progress and prospects ten years after the adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) (2021)

    The regional brief examines the situation of domestic workers in the Arab States including estimating the current number of domestic workers in the region, levels of formality and the degree to which domestic workers are included in legal and social protections, and outlines possible areas for future reform, including implementation and enforcement of legislation.