Unpaid care work and the new Global Goals

On 1st January 2016, the 17 new Global Goals for Sustainable Development came into force. These goals will guide the development agenda for the next 15 years, but what do they mean for unpaid care?

For the first time, there is specific mention of unpaid care. Goal 5, on gender equality, has a target to:

Recognise and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate.

This inclusion is very welcome, especially as it encourages the recognition and valuing of unpaid care work, and highlights its links to public services and infrastructure. The fact that the target includes domestic work (which can be both paid and unpaid, and is almost always undervalued) is also very positive. However, the target doesn’t address the need to redistribute unpaid care work so that the burden is not placed as heavily on women and girls.

Indicators to measure progress on the global goals are currently being developed. On 30 March 2016 the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) will meet to continue this process. A list of proposed indicators can be found here. For the unpaid care work target, the proposed indicators are:

Average weekly hours spent on unpaid domestic and care work, by sex, age and location

Proportion of households within 15 minutes of the nearest water source

In addition to these, it would also be very useful to measure availability of and access to public services. For example, childcare is essential if women’s unpaid care work is to decrease. There is some concern over following the clause within indicators: promote shared responsibility within the household as nationally appropriate. The inclusion of ‘nationally appropriate’ means that targets on unpaid care work are not universal. 

What do the other Goals say?

There are other goals, in addition to goal 5 on gender equality, which are relevant to unpaid care. But these other goals have not always been framed in the gender sensitive way needed to address the burden of unpaid care that women and girls face.

Goal 1 on ending poverty doesn’t talk about time poverty, and while it has a target on social protection systems and measures, this target doesn’t link social protection to unpaid care.

Goal 4 on quality education doesn’t highlight the links between unpaid care work and early childhood development.

Goal 6 on clean water and sanitation aims to increase access to safe and affordable drinking water for all, but it doesn’t mention the need to eliminate the drudgery involved in collecting water for those who do caring work.

Goal 8 on decent work and economic growth aims to achieve achieve full and productive employment for all women and men, but it doesn’t mention the need for public services (such as childcare) that would allow women to work without increasing their care burden.

Tracking progress

In January 2015 we looked at how the Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals) were progressing. How were things looking for women’s equality in unpaid care work as feminists pushed for a key element of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls to be represented adequately in the final Goals.

Read the blog post