Care Economies in Context

Care Economies in Context: An Interview with Senegal Team

The Care Economies in Context project team in Senegal answers questions addressing the work they have done, the major issues they see facing the Senegalese care economy, and the kinds of changes they would like to see. They also discuss the barriers that exist and the hopes they have for economic modelling.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the care economy in your country at the moment?

The care economy in Senegal faces numerous difficulties that slow down the process of women’s economic empowerment and gender equality. We know from studies done by CREG-CREFAT (the Regional Consortium for Research in Generational Economics where the Care Economies in Context project Senegal team is based) that social and cultural norms around gendered division of work have real impacts on people’s behavior, but national accounting does not take this domestic work into account.

The absence of domestic work in national accounting results in an underestimation of women’s participation in the economy, as well as a total non-valuation of the informal domestic work. There are currently no official indicators used to capture the value of these services in national accounting, and so our national economic models and estimates are weakened by this oversight. Additionally, there is a general lack of information and awareness of the importance of these services.

What kind of change would you like to see during the next decade?

Over the next decade we expect to see a change in the behaviour and situation of all stakeholders. We would like to see major steps towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 5, achievement of gender equality. For Senegal, this means: the inclusion of domestic work in national accounting; the valorization of domestic work; the development and adoption of new quality policies that integrate domestic work into the country’s socio-professional characteristics; a general and harmonized understanding of this work’s impact on the labour market; and a fresh look at women’s contribution to the economy and their retention in the job market by creating care infrastructures to reduce the burden of care work.

What are the barriers to change?

Among the obstacles to change are traditional gender roles that are deeply rooted in Senegalese society. Social and cultural norms often assign women the primary responsibility for unpaid care, and it is difficult to change these norms when these needs are unmet by infrastructure. In some parts of Senegal, for example, access to quality health services may be limited, which may mean that women are expected to take on a greater role in caring for children in the absence of local, robust healthcare infrastructure.

Lack of access to education can also limit women’s economic opportunities and keep them in traditional care roles. Finally, the absence or ineffectiveness of policies addressing gender inequality and social protection mechanisms is also an obstacle, as it can compromise women’s ability to reconcile their caregiving responsibilities with their participation in the paid workforce.

How do you think the research data and the CGE (Computable General Equilibrium) models will help?

Research data and Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) models can play a critical role in solving problems related to the care economy in Senegal in several ways. Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) models make it possible to carry out detailed analyses of the economic impacts of different economic reforms and policies. They can help assess how proposed changes will affect access to care infrastructures, costs, quality of care, men and women’s job creation, and more. Research evidence based on CGE models provides a solid foundation for communication and advocacy to policymakers, international bodies and civil society. They could, for instance, facilitate the presentation of evidence-based arguments to support reforms for health, education, and employment systems. 

Can you describe what you have done so far?

Several advances have been made in care economics and the allocation of women’s time to care for children and the elderly. In the case of Senegal, a study was carried out on non-market domestic work, and this study made it possible to measure and value domestic work and unpaid work. For instance, at the macro-economic level, the State has adopted policies such as maternal and infant health programs and universal health coverage. These initiatives aim to improve the health of women and their children, while helping to reduce the workload of women, who are often responsible for unpaid family care.

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