Care on care work: PH holds consultation on valuing and investing in unpaid care and domestic work

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), in collaboration with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Oxfam Pilipinas, and the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), led a national consultation titled “Valuing and Investing in Unpaid Care and Domestic Work,” held on September 28-29, 2023, at Novotel Manila Araneta City in Quezon City.

This gathering brought together participants from government agencies, civil society organizations, UN agencies, and the private sector, providing a vital platform to initiate a comprehensive care policy ecosystem through legislation and partnerships at the national level.

Unpaid care work encompasses various responsibilities – from cooking, laundry, household maintenance, childcare, emotional support and relational concerns, elderly or sick/disabled care to voluntary community work. While essential for functional households and societies, these responsibilities often go unnoticed or undervalued by many. 

During the national consultation, participants explored innovative approaches to tackle this issue, drawing insights from both national and international best practices in care policies. The focus was on adopting a holistic ‘whole of government’ approach to recognize, reduce, and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work. This initiative aimed to identify policy entry points covering social, economic, and legislative aspects.

Though unpaid care work impacts all genders, the discussion predominantly centered around women and girls who bear a disproportionate burden, dedicating an average of 11 hours per day to these tasks—four times more than their male counterparts1.  During the pandemic, this increased to 13 hours per day.2

From left to right: PCW Deputy Executive Director for Management Services Atty. Khay Ann Magundayao-Borlado, PCW Deputy Executive Director for Operations Ms. Kristine G. Balmes, UNESCAP Social Affairs Officer Ms. Channe Lindstrom Oguzhan, Oxfam Pilipinas Executive Director Ms. Erika Geronimo, UNESCAP Chief of Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Section Ms. Cai Cai, PCW Executive Director and OIC Atty. Kristine Rosary E. Yuzon-Chaves, UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Mr. Gustavo González, Country Coordinator of UN Women Ms. Rosalyn “Lenlen” Mesina, PRRM Area Manager for Eastern Visayas and Mindanao Mr. Raymundo Agaton Jr., and PCW PDPMED Chief Ms. Anette Baleda

PCW Executive Director, Atty. Kristine Rosary E. Yuzon-Chaves, emphasized the importance of understanding the unequal distribution of care work. She stated, “In acknowledging this, we cannot disregard the fact that, historically, care responsibilities have been disproportionately carried by women and girls due to gender stereotypes and societal expectations attributing the burden of unpaid care and domestic work, largely, to them. Women and girls are expected to prioritize caring for their family members above anything else. Even when they opt to participate in the workforce to support their families financially, they are still expected to juggle both productive and reproductive duties within their households.” 

Ms. Cai Cai, Chief of Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Section (GESIS), Social Development Division (SDD) of the UNESCAP, congratulated the Philippines for its initiatives in addressing unpaid care and domestic work.  “The Philippines has made impressive progress on advancing the care economy… I want to echo the Resident Coordinator’s appreciation for PCW’s outstanding work in championing the General Assembly resolution to commemorate the International Day of Care and Support. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Philippines for your unwavering commitment to supporting this cause. Your advocacy and leadership in this area are commendable and set an inspiring example for the entire [Asia-Pacific] region.”

Why care about care? 

According to UN Women, globally, women spend an average of 10 years on care work compared to 4 years for men.  A significant factor contributing to the intense care responsibilities for women is the influence of gender norms and stereotypes, where women are traditionally viewed as homemakers while men are seen as primary family providers.

The disproportionate burden of care work has profound implications for women’s physical, psychological, and mental well-being. The more substantial the burden, the greater the adverse impact on women and girls, leading to headaches, bodily ailments, weakened immunity, depression, and anxiety. This situation also results in young girls missing out on education and time for leisure as they are often compelled to assist with household chores, while adults face diminished employment prospects due to household management demands. For working mothers, there is the danger of the double burden of going to the job and then coming home to do more work in their houses. 

During an interview on the radio program Tinig ng Kababaihan, a collaborative effort between PCW and the Presidential Broadcast Service, Mr. Shubert Ciencia, ASEAN Engagement Coordinator of Oxfam in Asia, highlighted that these effects are even more severe in marginalized areas. 

Lalo na po sa kanayunan at mahihirap na pamayanan, mas malaking responsibilidad po ang naka-atang sa kababaihan. At dahil sa kanila na nga po inasa iyan, naging balakid sa kanilang sariling pag-unlad. Hindi sila makapag-hanapbuhay para magkaroon ng sariling pera, hindi sila makapag-pursue ng higher education, nakapag-aral, o mag-trabaho sa isang kumpanya, dahil sasabihin sa pamilya, ‘Sinong mag-aalaga sa nanay at tatay mo, sa mga pamangkin mo?,” Mr. Ciencia enthused. 

Unpaid care and domestic work is also being related to Violence Against Women (VAW). The stereotypes being associated with women in housework can be dealt with emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual violence when these are not met. The unequal distribution of care responsibilities exacerbates power imbalances and renders women vulnerable to violence. 

Valuing and Investing on Care: Recommendations from the Consultation

Participants sit in a cluster discussion exploring on possible recommendations on supporting and enabling a care economy in the Philippines

Addressing unpaid care work can start from the basic steps in the basic unit: the family. Mr. Ciencia emphasized the ways toward this called 4Rs: Recogbr>nize, Reduce, Redistribute, and Represent. This means recognizing the significance of care and its social and economic value, reducing the arduous household tasks, from promoting labor-saving devices, more efficient services, and others, redistributing the caregiving tasks among members of the household, the State, private sector, and community; and advancing representation of care workers in discussions of policies and enabling mechanisms. 

Nag-uumpisa sa pagkilalang iyan ang talakayan. Ano ang gagawin natin para mabawasan ang responsibilidad ng mga kababaihan at mga batang babae in domestic work? Paano natin ibabahagi iyan sa iba’t-ibang miyembro ng pamilya? Hindi lang naman po responsibilidad ni nanay, ni tatay, o ni lola iyan,” Mr. Ciencia said on recognizing and redistributing women’s care work.

The national consultation also led to several recommendations echoing the need to recognize, reduce, and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work. For instance, there is a call for enhanced accessibility and affordability of public infrastructure catering to care needs, including energy, transportation, water, sanitation, and technology to alleviate domestic work pressures. Establishment of day-care laws and services is also encouraged at the barangay level and government institutions. Additionally, community-based initiatives for the care of the elderly and persons with disabilities are proposed.

A specific direction identified involves disaggregating data and building an evidence base to underpin care-oriented policies. This necessitates extensive research, meticulous data disaggregation, household surveys, and labor force assessments.

Furthermore, participants advocated for more support services for care work and increased women’s labor force participation. This includes the implementation of social protection measures for unpaid care workers, ranging from universal healthcare and paid leave to allowances. Enhancing labor market regulations and policies is also recommended, enabling care workers to access flexible workplace arrangements, equal maternity and paternity leave, and dedicated care leave, among other provisions.

In sum, these recommendations aim to steer focus towards recognizing care as a fundamental pillar of human life and society, underscoring the necessity to support caregivers, and promote gender equality in dismantling entrenched gender norms.

Following the national consultation, regional counterparts will be convened by the National Economic and Development Authority in Region 8 and Oxfam, with the objective of tailoring the national recommendations to local contexts.

The national consultation comes ahead of the first International Day of Care and Support on October 29, 2023. 

Cited Sources:

1 Time to Care Report”, Oxam Philippines.
2 National Household Care Survey 2021, PCW-UN Women-Oxfam.