1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Combating Poverty and Inequality: Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics


From Chapter 7 – Care and Well-Being in a Development Context

This chapter discusses why development policy should be concerned about care. Some would emphasize its importance to economic growth, whether in terms of its contribution to human capital formation or as a component of social investment. Others see care more broadly, as part of the social fabric and integral to social development. How societies address care also has far-reaching implications for gender relations and inequality.

The need to address care through public policy is now more urgent than ever. Women’s massive entry into the paid workforce – a near-global trend – has squeezed the time available for unpaid care of family and friends. Ageing populations in some countries, and major health crises (especially HIV and AIDS) in others, have intensified the need for care services. Meanwhile, as public provisioning of infrastructure and welfare services falls short of need and demand, especially in times of crisis, care responsibilities are shifted back onto families, with women and girls often acting as the ultimate safety net.3 There are, however, serious limits to how far burdens can be unloaded onto the unpaid care economy without damaging human capabilities and weakening the social fabric. In recent years, perhaps in recognition of these risks, care has begun to be seen, at least in part, as a public responsibility.

The chapter is organized as follows
  • Section 1 of this chapter sets out the key concepts and framework for the analysis of care and policy responses to it.
  • Section 2 focuses on one significant component of care provisioning: the extensive scope of unpaid care work carried out in families, households and communities in both advanced industrialized and developing countries. It also looks at the gender characteristics of such care, using data available through time use surveys.
  • Section 3 explores the institutional configurations, policies and inputs that affect caregiving in a range of countries. The section takes a brief look at the commonalities and differences in care policy in advanced industrialized countries. It then focuses on three other clusters of countries or areas that have not been as extensively researched: East Asian developmental states; middle-income countries in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa; and lower income agrarian economies where the policy challenges are most severe.
  • Section 4 sets out key principles that need to inform policy and policy priorities for developing countries.

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