National report

'My Mother Does a Lot of Work': Women Balancing Paid and Unpaid Care Work in Tanzania

Zambelli, Elena; Roelen, Keetie; Hossain, Naomi; Chopra, Deepta; Twebaze, Jenipher,  October 2017

Tanzanian women spend more time overall than men on unpaid care work activities, and less on cash-earning work. This report presents the findings of research conducted in Tanzania as part of the ‘Balancing unpaid care work and paid work: successes, challenges and lessons for women’s economic empowerment programmes and policies’ research project. In particular, it reflects the voices and experiences of women and their household members who live across four rural districts in the Tanga region.

The study finds that women in the region shoulder the majority of unpaid care work responsibilities, and struggle to balance these with paid work. Women therefore suffer the drudgery and physical and psychosocial stress of juggling paid work with unpaid work. Reasons for this include:

  • the persistence of gender norms about who should do care work;
  • the lack of public services essential to both the care and paid economies; and
  • the low incomes earned by both women and men in these impoverished communities.

The study highlights that intervention is needed to support a rebalancing of unpaid care with paid work. This could be achieved through: improved working conditions and pay; provision of childcare; public water or fuel services; gender-sensitive infrastructural development; and efforts to address gender-unequal social norms and values that proscribe the redistribution of care.

Working papers

Are Women Not ‘Working’? Interactions between Childcare and Women’s Economic Engagement

Chopra, D.; Saha, A.; Nazneen, S. and Krishnan, M. ,  January 2020
IDS WORKING PAPER 533 cover page

This paper seeks to examine how childcare impacts upon women’s economic engagement in India, Nepal, Tanzania, and Rwanda. In delineating the linkages between childcare, paid work, and other tasks that women carry out within and outside the house, this paper privileges women’s own perceptions of childcare as ‘work’, and the extent to which they see this as a tension between women’s caregiving role and their income-generating role. Our findings corroborate that women experience significant trade-offs as they engage in both market activities and childcare tasks. We highlight the important distinction between direct and supervisory childcare – with supervisory childcare taking up a large amount of women’s time across all contexts. In bringing women’s voices to the fore of the prevalent discourse of childcare being a ‘barrier’ to women’s paid work, this paper highlights the complex and bidirectional relationship between childcare and women’s economic engagement. Our analysis shows that for women from lower-income households, the effect of childcare on women’s engagement in paid work (hours, location, type, or nature of work) is mediated by different factors: (a) the economic condition of the household; (b) the availability of alternative care arrangements; (c) the household structure and; (d) alternative options (for both men and women) for paid work. This research highlights how complex and constrained women’s choices are, in a context of low-paid jobs and lack of support for childcare from other institutional actors, and how women posit childcare as a positive and desirable experience.

‘How Can It Be a Problem If You Need Them Both?’ Women Juggling Paid and Unpaid Care Work in Tanzania

Zambelli, E.; Roelen, K.; Hossain, N.; Chopra, D. and Twebaze Musoke, J.,  September 2017

This paper summarises the findings of mixed-methods research that was carried out in Tanzania. It reflects the voices and experiences of women and their household members participating in women's economic empowerment (WEE) programmes across four sites in the rural districts of Korogwe and Lushoto in Tanga region. Participants in two WEE programmes are represented, namely the state-run Women Development Fund (WDF) and Oxfam’s Food Security for Tanzanian Farmers programme. The question addressed by the research was: 'How can women's economic empowerment (WEE) policies and programmes take unpaid care work into account in order to enable women’s economic empowerment to be optimised, shared across families and sustained across generations?'

This study and its findings clearly indicate that women shoulder the majority of unpaid work and struggle to balance this with paid work responsibilities. While some tasks are shared with other household members, there is no evidence to suggest that women are in a position to redistribute unpaid care work responsibilities to the state, the market or the community. Reasons for this appear to be mainly grounded in gender norms, the lack of public provision of services that are essential for facilitating care as well as paid work, and the low returns on women’s (and men’s) paid work. This study highlights that if no explicit action is undertaken to support a rebalance – whether that is through addressing working conditions, childcare arrangements, social norms or values or otherwise – patterns of unbalance will reproduce and perpetuate themselves, offering women valuable economic opportunities that help to improve living conditions and possibly their position within household or community settings, but never stretching quite far enough to reduce drudgery and the physical and psychosocial stress of juggling too many responsibilities.