“Care work, in all its forms, is a critical social good. It is essential for the provisioning of society and provides the foundation upon which our market economies function. Most care work across the world is unpaid, and its distribution is strongly gendered: more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work globally is carried out by women.
This has significant implications for gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. Unpaid care work constitutes a key barrier to women’s labour market outcomes, including labour force participation, wages, and job quality. Increased time devoted by women to unpaid care work is correlated with a declining rate of labour force participation.2 Moreover, according to ILO research, unpaid care work is the principal reason given by women of working age for being outside of the labour force.
A growing body of research has explored the relationship between childcare and women’s economic empowerment in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The results suggest that childcare provision can improve women’s labour market outcomes across a number of measures, including employment, income, and transitioning from the informal to the formal sector.11 Based on these promising links, further research has sought to develop the ‘business case’ for care – focusing largely on two avenues: public investment in childcare provision and formal, employer-supported childcare. A ‘missing middle’ between these two well-documented models, of great relevance for development actors focused on promoting childcare solutions in LMICs, is about meeting the childcare needs of
women micro and small enterprises (MSEs), including self-employed workers – hereafter referred to as ‘women MSEs’.”