Government and development partners discuss how to advance the care economy in Bangladesh


Author: Shararat Islam

Photo: UN Women/Monon Muntaka
Ms. Simeen Hussain Rimi, MP, State Minister of Women and Children Affairs speaking at a dialogue with development partners. Photo: UN Women/Monon Muntaka

On May 7, Government officials and development partners joined the dialogue “Transforming the Care Economy in Bangladesh”, organized by UN Women and ILO, under the leadership of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA).

According to a recent Time Use Survey conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, with support from UN Women, Bangladeshi women perform on average over seven times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men. Mostly invisible and undervalued, this work is tied to traditional household roles heavily influenced by cultural norms and considered to be low-skilled.

“It is important to recognize that ‘care’ is an integral part of us, and that need for care needs to be firstly recognized and means of redistribution of care need to be identified for this care burden to be reduced from women,” said Ms. Simeen Hussain Rimi, MP, State Minister of MoWCA.

During the event, ILO and UN Women introduced their new joint programme aimed at encouraging individuals and institutions to adopt practices and behaviours that address discriminatory social norms around care work, strengthening integration of gender-transformative measures in national/sectoral policy frameworks in line with the global 5R framework on decent care work: Recognize, reduce, and redistribute unpaid care work, and reward and represent paid care work, improving labour market policies and governance to promote decent jobs in care work and increasing availability and access to social care infrastructure and service delivery mechanisms.

The two agencies also presented recommendations to increase investments in the care economy, which included focusing on better access to gender-sensitive care policies and services, improving social and physical infrastructure, enhancing decent work opportunities, and addressing social norms and gendered division of labor.

Photo: UN Women/Monon Muntaka
Ms. Gwyn Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator for Bangladesh. Photo: UN Women/Monon Muntaka

“Investing in the care economy means creating opportunities for decent work - especially to enable greater participation of women in the workforce, reduce gender and intersecting inequalities including gender gap in employment, and extend means to ensure better quality and affordable care services for all. Hence, investing in the care economy and transformative care policies is not only a wise economic choice, but also a significant step towards achieving gender equality and social justice,” said Ms. Gwyn Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator for Bangladesh.

The discussion emphasized that investing in care policies and infrastructure in Bangladesh is a wise economic choice. For instance, allocation of 3.99 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in care sectors has the potential to generate around seven million new jobs by 2035, with 91 per cent of new positions being formal jobs for women. This investment could notably reduce the gender employment gap, while promoting gender equality, social justice, and human rights. Investments in innovative and time-saving solutions can significantly reduce drudgery, often associated with household chores and labour.

Photo: UN Women/Monon Muntaka
Ms. Gitanjali Singh, UN Women Bangladesh Country Representative. Photo: UN Women/Monon Muntaka

“Changing women’s conditions does not necessarily change women’s position in the family or society. Care work is the center of a sustainable and just economy. All aspects of care work across sectors must be recognized and compensated adequately. Care work is everyone’s responsibility” said Ms. Gitanjali Singh, UN Women Bangladesh Country Representative

The meeting also provided an opportunity for development partners to identify priority areas for engagement, share best practices, and share feedback on the proposed joint programme:

In photos