Making care visible in public policy

Research aims and methodology: our approach

We are taking an approach informed by feminist political economy as we analyse the conditions under which policy actors recognise or ignore the significance of unpaid care. We are using action learning methodology to look at what works and doesn’t work in making visible the care economy to policy actors. We are working with partners in six countries, targeting selected actors, as well as global actors, so that they recognise and seek to address the connections between the market and the largely invisible care economy. Our work in this area has three strands:

Literature review

We have conducted a thematic literature review, identifying cases of successful policies around social protection and early childhood development. Social protection policies cover things like conditional and unconditional cash transfers, food and cash for work programmes, and social transfers programmes - child support grants, old age pension, widow pension etc. Early childhood development policies cover things like crèches, education programmes and health/ nutrition/ immunisation programmes. For us, a successful policy is one that incorporates unpaid care into its aims, design, implementation and evaluation.

National level advocacy

We are working with our partners in Action Aid, BRAC Development Institute and the SMERU Institute in six countries. We are working together to develop national level advocacy strategies to help make unpaid care work visible in public policy. Find out more here.

International level advocacy

We are working with Action Aid International and Oxfam to increase the visibility of unpaid care work in global policy agendas. Find out more here.

By the end of the four year project, we will have developed a set of strategy guidelines for other international NGOs, setting out what works well and what has been less successful in practice when integrating unpaid care issues into policy.

Programme reports

Making care visible: Influencing story on policy change on unpaid care work. Nesbitt-Ahmed, Zahrah (2015).

This story of influence covers work from IDS and partners in Asia and international civil society and policy spaces which has aimed to raise the visibility of women's unpaid care work as a key issue for development policy and practice.

Story of influence

Redistributing care work for gender equality and justice – a training curriculum. IDS, ActionAid and Oxfam (2015).

This training curriculum, designed for community facilitators, highlights the importance of social reproduction work, including unpaid care work, in contributing to economies. It proposes that collective sharing of the responsibility, costs and work of care leads to the realisation of rights for all.

Training curriculum 

Online discussion on unpaid care work

Between 20 – 22 November 2012, an online discussion on the care economy was facilitated via the Eldis Communities Platform. The purpose of the discussion was to explore the following questions:

  1. What do you identify as the political challenges of putting unpaid care onto the development policy agendas? What are the circumstances, which provide political opportunity windows to get care onto the agenda?
  2. What arguments work in getting policy response to unpaid care? Why do these work? Which arguments fail and why?

The aim of the discussion was to share experiences and political challenges with trying to get care on the policy agenda, and with tackling or defusing these other challenges.

Twenty-three participants took part in the discussion, all of who were from research/academic, NGOs, and donor bodies, and had knowledge of or worked within the care economy. This vibrant and engaging debate elicited a range of responses, which have been collated here.  The discussion report is now available: