04.05.2020

New FES study: Women and the Future of Care Work in Asia

Around the world, women conduct the majority of (un)paid care work. In Asia, the care sector is particularly large. A new FES study investigates what the present and future of work looks like for the economy of care in Asia.

At present, care work in Asia – and indeed globally – is unrecognized and undervalued. In the future, care workers are expected to face even more vulnerability, despite the predicted rise in demand due to demographic changes in the region. With 75 percent of paid and 80 percent of unpaid care worker being performed by women in Asia, urgent policy action is needed to safeguard their economic, social and psychological well-being. 

The care economy is not untouched by technological and digital innovations and disruptions. But for now, it is welfare policies, such as childcare, health care and parental leave, as well as the pressure for many to migrate and, importantly, existing social norms that determine the value of paid and unpaid care work. If attitudes towards the gender division of care work are not changing and women’s caring roles in families critically reflected upon, the value and recognition of paid and unpaid care work is unlikely to increase. Particularly in low-income countries, women shoulder a large amount of unpaid care work and are more likely to engage in low-wage and informal employment.

  • Graphic: Kailin Huang / Picture People Plan

Demographic developments in the region are straining the insufficiently established care services and demand urgent social welfare policy responses. East Asian societies face both falling birth rates and increases in life expectancy. The subsequent effects of labour shortages and a rising demand for elderly as well as general health care do not only affect individual nations. Regional supply and demand mechanisms as well as the lack of government investments in social services in some countries have led to an increase in the migration of care workers across the region.

Graphic: Kailin Huang / Picture People Plan

Who gives and who receives care should not depend on people’s wealth or sex. Instead, care should be readily available to all people, and care work should be recognized as decent work for all women and men.

In its 2020 report, Oxfam established that public social welfare systems are the most effective way to take on inequalities because they help to reduce and redistribute care burdens.

The study "Women and the Future of Care Work in Asia" explores welfare and care policies in Asia and looks into recommendations that include women’s perspectives and lead to a future for all and decent work in the care economy.

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For more details on the regional work by FES in Asia, contact the Singapore-based FES Office for Regional Cooperation in Asia and follow the facebook page and twitter for regular updates.

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