Market systems approaches to enabling women's economic empowerment through addressing unpaid care work

Published by
BEAM Exchange

This framing document sets out how the provision of care can be integrated conceptually within a market systems approach.

Market systems programmes are increasingly recognising the important role that women play in market activity and including women’s economic empowerment and gender equality objectives. However, unpaid care work is a significant and regularly overlooked factor which affects women’s economic, political and social activities.

This paper develops the concept of unpaid care work within the framework of market systems. It shows that unpaid care is a substantial proportion of the work carried out by poor families, especially women, with many heavy, inefficient or unequally distributed tasks limiting productivity and mobility, amongst other factors, for market work. Thus unpaid care is a significant factor affecting the functioning of markets, and the degree to which poor families are able to benefit from markets. Where programmes ignore this relationship, it can be detrimental for both social outcomes linked to care and for market activities.

The paper proposes that market systems programmes should, at a minimum, incorporate an understanding of care work into market analysis, to avoid unintended consequences and ensure that women as well as men benefit from interventions.

The ideas set out in this document will be further explored through field research and conversations with practitioners. Further comments and feedback are welcome.

This research is being led by the Institute of Development Studies, in collaboration with Oxfam GB and their Ethiopia team, and has been commissioned by BEAM Exchange.