300m jobs and progress for women by investing in care

photo: ILO

The ITUC has welcomed the findings of a landmark report that shows investing in care would lead to transformative change in the world of work and restart progress for women, which has been stalled.

Of the millions of people who have been forced out of the labour market during the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority have been women who also take on the vast majority of unpaid care work.

Care at work, from the International Labour Organization (ILO), estimates that a global investment in universal childcare and long-term care would create 280 million jobs by 2030 and another 19 million by 2035.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “This total of nearly 300 million jobs would take us a long way to our global call to create 575 million jobs by 2030.

“Investing in care makes economic sense. An annual spend of 4% of total GDP would create millions of jobs that could be paid for, in part, from tax earnings that would rise because of increased incomes and employment, reducing the cost closer to 3% of GDP.

“Investing in care makes sense for raising women’s participation in the workforce. It would boost the employment rate of women by 78%, and 84% of the jobs would be formal.

“Investing in care makes sense for our societies as health, education and care for children, disabled people and older people are now recognised as a foundation for resilience in our communities against national or global shocks and for meeting the promise of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

A New Social Contract

The millions of jobs which can be created in care will have a direct impact on securing employment and decent work for women and migrant workers as well as freeing women from the burden of care to participate in broader areas of the economy.

“We need jobs and investment plans in every country to kick-start progress for women and make these care jobs a reality by 2030 as part of a New Social Contract. The ILO’s report demonstrates that jobs, wages, social protection, rights for all workers, equality and inclusion – the fundamental provisions unions are demanding in a new social contract – are linked, achievable and desirable,” added Sharan Burrow.

Based on the findings in the report, the ITUC is calling for immediate progress by governments to end discriminatory practices by supporting the following:

  • Maternity protection: This is a public good and a collective responsibility, but the report shows that at the current rate, it will take 46 years to achieve minimum maternity-leave rights in the 185 countries analysed.
  • Men’s care responsibilities: Almost two-thirds of potential fathers (1.26 billion men) live in countries with no entitlement to paternity leave.
  • Childcare services for child development and women’s employment: This is a universal right in only 21 countries, giving only one in ten people access to free or affordable childcare services.
  • Long-term care leave that can play a key role in the increasing care needs of ageing societies: Only two in ten adults globally have a statutory right to long-term care leave, and it is paid in only 43 countries.
  • Long-term care services for the dignity of older people: Only 16% of people live in countries where these services are universal and free.
  • Occupational health and safety at work and breastfeeding-friendly workplaces.
  • Working with trade unions and employers in a dialogue to create transformative care policy packages.

The ILO estimates that there were 13 million fewer women in employment in 2021 compared to 2019, while men’s employment has recovered to 2019 levels.

Early data suggests that only 43.2% of the world’s working-age women were employed in 2021, compared to 68.6% of working-age men. This would mean that women’s working lives will be disrupted over a long period of time unless appropriate measures are adopted.