St. Vincent and the Grenadines is among four Eastern Caribbean countries that will pilot a survey to measure unpaid care work. The survey would be done via a national census in an effort to capture women’s total contributions to social and economic development as a means to gather data and bridge the existing gap in fully assessing how this time is divided between women and men and reduce gender inequality.
Representative from the UN Women Multi-country Office in the Caribbean, Tonni Brodber noted that effective data collection is detrimental in terms of pushing policy development and emphasised that unpaid care work must be counted.
Brodber pointed out that due to the negative impact of COVID-19 care work responsibility at home, both the centrality of the contributions and the disproportionate burdens that women carry, has multiplied in the Caribbean and around the world due to lockdowns and/or the subsequent unemployment and in the absence of measurement, women’s total contribution to social and economic development is not being captured.
She said: “Care work is crucial to our societies and to the economy. It includes looking after children, elderly people, and those with physical and mental illnesses and disabilities, as well as daily domestic work like cooking, cleaning, washing, mending, and fetching water and firewood in some communities still in the Caribbean.
“Without someone investing time, effort and resources in these essential daily tasks, communities, workplaces, and whole economies would grind to a halt. What we knew at the global level was that, on an average pre-COVID-19 day, women spent about three times as many hours on unpaid domestic work and care work as men.
“Prior to COVID-19, data on how much time women and men spent on unpaid care and domestic work was not sufficiently prioritised and therefore scarce.
Citing the need for this work to be “rebalanced more equally between women and men and remunerated, Brodber noted that while countries like Jamaica, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago have made significant strides towards gathering unpaid work data, the fact that “no Caribbean country has completed a survey to fully assess how this time is divided between women and men…the absence of unpaid domestic and care work data means that women’s work and contribution to the economy will remain unrecognised.”
The Presenters, who included representatives from the CARICOM Secretariat, OECS Commission, CDEMA and national statistical offices, as well as researchers from the University of the West Indies and international research consultants specialising in this area, agreed that going forward one of the troubling issues to be addressed is the unbalanced hours that women spend on unpaid care work.
It was observed that in the end, women work longer hours than men when both unpaid care and paid market work are combined, including the work that happens inside the home, cooking, cleaning, care of children, and care of the elderly.
Director, Human Development, CARICOM Secretariat, Helen Royer stressed that while many countries globally had undertaken national time use surveys, CARICOM Member States still had data gaps to fill in relation to carrying out full scale surveys.
Applauding the efforts of Trinidad and Tobago for including questions on unpaid care in its 2000 Census and Dominica, which did so in 2010 and Jamaica, which also included a module on unpaid care and domestic work in its 2018 Survey of Living Conditions, Royer encouraged Member States to follow the lead of these countries and pilot the appropriate questions in their Censuses to facilitate the establishment of a coordinated approach that will allow for comparability of data across States.
The UN Women Representative also shared that the CARICOM Secretariat, and the OECS Commission along with national governments and other partners are working assiduously to close this major data gap by supporting the piloting of the measurement of unpaid care work in Grenada, Guyana, Suriname, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.
CDEMA Acting Executive Director, Elizabeth Riley said that the Agency has integrated gender considerations into the Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis (DANA) process and highlighted specific areas for data collection and encouraged member countries to collect data pre and post-disaster on unpaid care work.
This, she said “would also allow for exact measurements and comparability informing policy and programmes”.
“Data collection on the impact of disasters on infrastructure for care service provision such as day care centres should be specific, with a view to determining the possible impact on increasing unpaid care work,” she remarked.
“Post-disaster assessments must consider if women’s participation in Cash for Work Programmes is affected by childcare responsibilities and if so, should include measures to address this,” she said.