Beyond GPD - The importance of unpaid care work

"Societies in which the gap between rich and poor is much lower are those in which women are treated more as equals."
Babeth Ngoc Han Lefur
Oxfam in Vietnam

Đọc bản tiếng Việt tại đây. 

Today’s extreme wealth is also founded on sexism. Our economic system was built by rich and powerful men, who continue to make the rules and reap the lion’s share of the benefit. Worldwide men own 50% more wealth than women.

Women are supporting the market economy with cheap and free labour and they are also supporting the state by providing care that should be provided by the public sector.

Oxfam has calculated that women’s unpaid care work alone is adding value to the economy to the tune of at least $10.8 trillion a year, a figure three times larger than the tech industry.

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. Without someone investing time, effort and resources in these essential daily tasks; communities, workplaces, and whole economies would grind to a halt.

Governments around the world can, and must, build a human economy that is feminist. This world would be one where everyone has secure jobs paying decent wages, where nobody lives in fear of the cost of falling sick, and where every child has the chance to fulfill their potential.

Feminist economics and gender equality are fundamental to a human economy, and a core part of this new, fairer, human economy is to fully address the role of unpaid and underpaid care work. Only by fundamentally changing the way that this work is done and how it is valued can we build a more equal world.

Realising women’s rights towards gender equality, why is progress so slow?

By Babeth Ngoc Han Lefur, Country Director, Oxfam in Vietnam

Societies in which the gap between rich and poor is much lower are those in which women are treated more as equals.

Social norms and attitudes keep women subordinate and unable to take advantage of educational, political and economic opportunities. A research commissioned by Oxfam entitled “Gender stereotypes against female leaders” revealed that barriers constraining women’s ability to obtain leadership positions are many. One of those is voters’ stereotypical attitude toward female leadership, which may have resulted in the low percentages of women in elected bodies including the National Assembly and the People’s Councils. Voters use double standards when deciding whether or not to select a female candidate, expecting a good female leader to first fulfill her role as a mother and a wife before taking on her work responsibilities; or how successful woman should look like in the contemporary Vietnamese society, that is: only those female leaders who can handle their dual roles and responsibilities both in families as traditional women and in the workplace as modern women are considered ideal.

Corporate attitudes have improved in a number of places, but a lot more needs to be done. Particularly, more dedicated resources need to be committed in companies to develop comprehensive gender policies within their organisations as well as in business operations. Oxfam has carried out numerous researches (and quantification) that demonstrate time and time again that the world economic prosperity is dependent on the huge but unrecognised contribution made by women through unpaid care work. If all the unpaid care work done by women across the globe was carried out by a single company, it would have an annual turnover of USD10 trillion, 43 times that of Apple’s.

Vietnam has been largely externally funded to push for gender equality. Vietnam has made great advance both in gender policies and practices - Vietnam gender equality law of 2005 is one of the most progressive gender law in Asia. But this trend has been weakening with end of or reduced funding and other support, or investment only in economic empowerment. This has gone hand in hand with an overall regression of the progress made, gender development practitioners and specialists fear that the gains made are being lost.