Care Economies in Context


UN Women and ILO Report: Understanding Care Work and the Economy of Care in China

Care work, primarily carried out by women, amplifies gender disparities in the economy and society. In China, women perform 2.5 times more unpaid care work than men. This report by UN Women and ILO offers policy recommendations to address these imbalances, aligning with the 2021-2025 UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework for China.


As the backbone of the economy and society, care work is essential. Yet, it often goes unrecognized. Worldwide, the bulk of unpaid care work is bore by women and girls: women perform 76.2 per cent of total hours of unpaid care work, 3.2 times as much as men. In China, women spend around 2.5 times as much time as men on unpaid care work.

The heavy and unequal responsibility of care work falling to women and girls is one of the main causes of gender gaps in the economy, and then in all aspects of the society. Paid care work, as another important carrier of care work, on the other hand, is usually undervalued. For example, paid care work performed by domestic workers is largely informal and lacks legal protection, which affects the wellbeing of domestic workers as well as the provision of affordable and high-quality domestic service.

Emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic could exacerbate the existing inequalities. A number of factors added to women’s unpaid care work, including school shutdowns and heightened care needs of elderly and sick people. As women take on greater care demands at home, their jobs are also disproportionately affected by cuts and lay-offs. Along with the three-child policy, there could be a growing demand for caring the elderly and children, putting greater pressure on the entire care system.

Under this context, in line with the 2021-2025 United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework for China, UN Women and ILO worked together to produce this report to better understand care work and the economy of care in China, where policy recommendations are put forward to strengthen the societal reorganization of care to help shape a more equal and inclusive society.