22.10.2013 | Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights

Eradicating poverty by valueing unpaid care work

GENEVA (17 October 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda, urged States to support unpaid care workers: “I call on States to tackle the deep-rooted causes of gender inequality and women’s greater vulnerability to poverty.”

“It is unacceptable that, in the 21st century, unpaid care work such as cooking, childcare, looking after frail older relatives and fetching water and fuel, which heavily contributes to economic growth and social development, is not better valued, supported or shared”, said Ms. Sepúlveda.

The Special Rapporteur stressed that State policies must place care as a social and collective responsibility and ensure that the necessary public services and infrastructure – including childcare, healthcare, water and energy provision - are in place, especially in disadvantaged areas.

She noted that in both developed and developing countries, women work longer hours than men when unpaid work is taken into account, but receive lower earnings and less recognition for their contribution.

“When women undertake a disproportional amount of unpaid care, they ended having very little time to enjoyment their rights to education, decent work on an equal basis with men. This entrenches women’s poverty and social exclusion”, the independent expert said.

“Poverty cannot be eradicated without concerted action on the specific obstacles women face,” Ms. Sepúlveda said, stressing that “the fact that most countries around the world do not recognize and guarantee the rights of care-givers or distribute the costs of care more evenly across society is a major barrier to women’s ability to lift themselves out of poverty”.

“To commemorate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, I wish to remind States and others that efforts to end poverty must include valuing, supporting and redistributing unpaid care as an essential part of the strategy,” she said.

“Anti-poverty and development initiatives- including the post-2015 global development agenda - cannot afford to ignore unpaid care work,” she concluded.

The Special Rapporteur’s 2013 report to the General Assembly, to be presented on 23 October 2013, examines the links between unpaid care work, poverty and women’s human rights.

Magdalena Sepúlveda (Chile) was appointed the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. She has extensive experience in economic, social and cultural rights and holds a PhD in international human rights law from Utrecht University. She is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/SRExtremePovertyIndex.aspx