Understanding unpaid care work to empower women in market systems approaches

Published by
BEAM Exchange, IDS, Oxfam

Market systems programmes are increasingly targeting women’s economic empowerment. However, approaches to support women to participate in paid work often assume that women’s time is elastic. They fail to consider roles and responsibilities in the household and the community, and this can undermine both development outcomes and market activities.

This report highlights the interactions between market systems programmes and unpaid care responsibilities, and the consequences for both programmes and women of not addressing unpaid care work related constraints. It offers detailed guidance on how a market systems approach can be used to diagnose excessive and problematic constraints related to unpaid care; provides tools that can support assessments; and outlines how programmes have designed interventions based on facilitation. It highlights the importance of addressing unpaid care constraints if programmes are to generate sustainable changes that support women’s economic empowerment. 

This report is structured as follows:

  • Section 2 provides some background on unpaid care work and on market systems – what they are and what the relationship is between them, including the ‘business case’ for market actors to address unpaid care
  • Section 3 presents the project lifecycle, identifying implications of unpaid care work for market systems
  • Section 4 introduces tools to diagnose and design targeted interventions, adapted for use by market systems programmes. It draws on examples from an in-depth case study from Oromia, Ethiopia, and other programme experiences globally
  • Section 5 categorises and presents examples of interventions to respond to unpaid care work, and again is illustrated with programme examples.

Research project: Unpaid care work: facilitating systemic change towards women's economic empowerment