Home Opinion The Unseen Economy: Unpaid Care Work, Its Impact On Kenyan Women

The Unseen Economy: Unpaid Care Work, Its Impact On Kenyan Women

Care Work
Care Work

In the bustling world of economics, there exists a realm often overlooked yet profoundly impactful – unpaid care work. While it lacks the allure of financial transactions and profit margins, unpaid care work constitutes a substantial portion of economic activity, albeit without monetary compensation. In Kenya, as in many parts of the world, this invisible labor force is predominantly shouldered by women and girls, encompassing a range of responsibilities crucial for the functioning of households and communities.

Within the intricate tapestry of unpaid care work, Kenyan women and girls carry a disproportionate burden. From the arduous task of fetching water and collecting firewood to the everyday chores of cleaning and food production, women and girls are the unsung heroes behind the smooth functioning of households. Moreover, the care of children, feeding infants, and nursing the sick, persons with disabilities (PWDs), and elderly further compound the workload shouldered by women and girls.

Global statistics paint a stark picture of the gender disparity in unpaid care work. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) data from 2018, women undertake a staggering 76 percent of all unpaid care work worldwide. Further, in sub-Saharan Africa, the divide is even more pronounced, with women dedicating an average of 263 minutes per day to unpaid care work, compared to men’s 78 minutes.

The heavy and unequal burden of unpaid care work not only undermines women’s economic participation but also perpetuates gender inequalities. With the majority of their time consumed by caregiving responsibilities, women are often excluded from engaging in other productive activities. This exclusion not only affects individual women but also has broader implications for the economy as a whole, stifling productivity and hindering economic growth.

The Road to Recognition and Redistribution

Recognizing the significance of unpaid care work, the Kenyan government has embarked on a crucial endeavor through the draft National Care Policy. The overarching goal of this policy is to acknowledge, reduce, and redistribute unpaid care work among individuals, irrespective of gender. By involving all stakeholders – including men and women, boys and girls, the private sector, and the government – the policy aims to alleviate the burden on women and pave the way for a more equitable distribution of care responsibilities.

Unpaid care work may not feature prominently in economic discourse, but its impact reverberates throughout society. In Kenya, as in many parts of the world, women and girls bear the brunt of this invisible labor, often at the expense of their economic empowerment and well-being. By acknowledging the importance of unpaid care work and taking proactive steps to redistribute these responsibilities, we can strive towards a more inclusive and equitable society where the contributions of all, regardless of gender, are valued and recognized.

Author: Elizabeth Wanja, Board Member – Kijiji Afrika.

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