Decent work

ILO-UN Women joint programme on decent employment for women in the care economy concludes with recommendations to address care coverage gaps

A high-level policy dialogue on care, decent employment and macroeconomy organized by the ILO and UN Women highlights the need for increased care investment in Nepal for decent employment opportunities for women through gender-responsive care, sectoral and macroeconomic policies.

Press release | Kathmandu, Nepal | 22 August 2023
Group photo. © ILO
KATHMANDU, Nepal (ILO News) - The International Labour Organization (ILO) and UN Women organized a gender-responsive policy dialogue on care, decent employment and macro economy as part of the Joint Programme “Promoting decent employment for women through inclusive growth policies and investments in the care economy”, on 18 August 2023. Organized as one of the closing activities of the Joint Programme, the event served as a platform to disseminate key findings of the macroeconomic policy analysis and assessment of the care coverage gap, costing and returns, undertaken by the Institute for Integrated Development Studies (IIDS) and supported by the National Planning Commission (NPC). The event also included a panel discussion on the care economy in Nepal featuring sectoral experts from the government, development partners and the private sector.

The ILO-UN Women Joint Programme has supported facilitating the adoption of gender-equitable inclusive growth policies and public investments in the care economy for promoting decent employment for women. The program addresses the absence of care data and supports the development of effective and transformative care policies and programmes that are rights-based, gender-responsive, integrated and universal.

The ‘care economy’ entails a diverse range of productive work, including both paid and unpaid work activities that provide direct and indirect care necessary for the physical, psychological and social well-being of primarily care-dependent groups, such as children, the elderly, disabled and ill people, as well as for prime-age working adults.

Kripa Basnyat, National Project Coordinator and participants. © ILO
Although Nepal has taken significant steps towards advancing women’s economic empowerment, several gaps remain including a low female labour force participation rate, lower weekly hours worked for pay or profit, and a higher burden of unpaid care work.
In Nepal, women carry out 85 per cent of daily unpaid care work, spending a total of 29 million hours a day (cumulatively) compared to 5 million hours spent by men. (ILO Stat) This is six times as much as men, significantly higher than the regional average. Among “inactive persons”, 39.7 per cent of women indicated “unpaid care work” as the main reason for being outside the labour force, while only 4.6 per cent of men indicated the same reason (NLFS 2017/18).

This situation demonstrates the need for macroeconomic policies to address the differential needs of women, proactively targeting gender inequalities in the labour market. This can contribute to strengthening economic resilience and as well as help build back better from shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Patricia Fernandez-Pacheco, Country Representative, UN Women Nepal Country Office. © ILO
In her opening remarks at the policy dialogue, Patricia Fernandez-Pacheco, Country Representative for UN Women Nepal advocated for the need for increasing investment in the care economy.

“Ignoring the care economy is simply failing to tap into the productive potential that half of the population (women) has to offer. Strengthening evidence with better, gender-disaggregated data across sectors can be critical to providing a real picture of gender segregation and addressing care coverage gaps", remarked Patricia Fernandez-Pacheco.

Numan Özcan, Director, ILO Country Office for Nepal. © ILO
In his remarks, ILO Nepal Country Director Numan Özcan said “Investment in care services allows for redistribution and reduction of unpaid care work and relieves some of the restrictions on women’s labour force participation. This can also create decent work opportunities. But this can only happen if care policies are grounded on human and labour rights”.

A gender-focused macroeconomic assessment of Nepal’s care economy conducted under UN Women-ILO Joint Programme projects that by investing 272,232 million NPR to meet Nepal’s care coverage gaps in education and healthcare, a total of 1,386,000 jobs could be generated, at least 60 per cent of which will be filled by women.

Increasing investment in the care economy can ultimately stimulate aggregate demand, leading to widespread demand-led economic growth. It will also strengthen human capital, alleviate the time poverty of women undertaking unpaid care work, and challenge gender-blind macroeconomic investments, leading to gender-responsive progress.

“We are hopeful that the findings and policy recommendations of this programme will be instrumental in influencing the upcoming 16th plan, national employment and other sectoral policies," said ILO Country Director Özcan.
Panelist of the panel discussion. © ILO
Dr Ram Kumar Phuyal, Honourable Member, National Planning Commission. © ILO
Dr Ram Kumar Phuyal, Honourable Member, National Planning Commission shared that with a tripartite National Steering Committee already in place to validate findings from diverse assessments within the UN Women-ILO Joint Programme, there exists a solid foundation to evolve this Committee into a dedicated working group to champion women’s dignified employment and advocate for the formulation of comprehensive national care policy, laws and programmes while continuously monitoring the impact of care investments. These will be concretised through the upcoming 16th Plan and other pertinent sectoral policies for generating decent employment for women.