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Women and the future of work: Taking care of the caregivers

Over the last 20 years, important achievements have been made with regards to gender equality in the world of work. At least 50% of the world’s women are in paid wage and salary employment – an increase of 10% since the 1990s. In 2014, women held 24% of the world’s senior management positions, compared to 19% ten years ago. What these achievements do not tell us is who is providing the caregiving that is helping these women make inroads into the labour market. Possibly these women are working double shifts, one at the workplace and another at home. There is also evidence of a redistribution of tasks between men and women in households. However, chances are that there are other women helping out. Women of all ages are the principal providers of care for children, the elderly, the disabled, and for whole families and communities, at home and in private and public institutions. In the context of ageing societies, public health care deficits and cut-backs in public services, there is growing demand for care work in private households and an increased pressure on women’s time as care givers. To a large extent, it is also thanks to the labour of, predominantly female, domestic workers that other women have succeeded in occupying the paid labour market in increasingly larger proportions and in breaking the glass ceiling. When women engage in paid work outside the home, they either have to reduce their rest and leisure time, enlist the help of partners or other family members or – if the family or woman could afford it – pay someone else to do the unpaid care work that they would normally do.