What is care work?

  • Care is essential work, critical to the social infrastructure on which our societies are built. Everyone, at different stages of life, cares for others or has care needs provided by others.
  • Unpaid and low-paid care work subsidises every area of the economy.
  • Globally, the majority of carers (across countries and regions) both paid and unpaid, and in both formal and informal employment, are women.

Why is the way care is organised a cause for concern?

  • Care services have been increasingly privatized since the 1980s. This means that increasingly care work is becoming low paid or unpaid.
  • Globally women carry out three quarters of unpaid care work. In Ireland, women provide double the amount of unpaid care than men – an average of 28 hours for women against 14 hours for men. The gender pension gap stands at 35%
  • A reliance on women’s unpaid or low paid work for crucial caring services lock women into poverty and economic inequality.

Why are we talking about care now?

  • Next month Ireland is going to vote to have care enshrined in our Constitution (and remove extremely outdated and sexist language that a woman’s place is in the home)
  • The referendum is an opportunity to discuss care more broadly, in Ireland and globally, and to develop policies that truly support carers.
  • We have published a report in partnership with the National Women’s Council funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission with recommendations of how care can be divided more fairly in Ireland and globally.
  • Read the Summary Report here and the Full Research Paper here.

Recommendations on care to alleviate poverty:

  • A model of publicly-funded, gender-responsive universal care services to be urgently developed and implemented.
  • A pay and career structure for all care workers which should link them to wider public sector services.
  • Budgets for personal assistance to be urgently and very significantly increased.
  • The introduction of publicly funded and accessible, quality, affordable early years care and education for young children.
  • A universal state pension.
  • A living wage for all paid carers.
  • The Irish government to support the global calls to recognise care as a human right.

Caring in Ireland

Georgia Grogan, carer to a daughter with complex needs, describes how she is impacted by the uneven distribution of care. “Skye relies on me for everything- I am her entire world. I don’t have the luxury of making mistakes. From the moment I became a carer I feel like I’ve been fighting a losing battle. It sickens me that those who don’t have the ability or the confidence to speak up are the ones expected to shout the loudest. I’m constantly being reminded of my age, my lack of experience, my overall duty as a parent, but denied the contributions and the value of what I give as a carer’.

“The policies and rules involved in care are often degrading, and they perpetuate outdated ideas that women are simply homemakers. I can’t stay in education without working, and I can’t find meaningful, sustainable work without education. Care impacts every aspect of life for all of us, the environment around us, how we connect with others, and connect with ourselves. But unfortunately, there are many of us who provide more care, and see little benefit.” She continued.



Georgia Grogan (left) pictured with Sarah McEntee, Doras Buí.

Caring globally

Globally, on average women spend nearly four and a half hours each day doing unpaid care work, compared to around one and a half hours for men. We work with women who spend up to 18 hours a day on unpaid work. This limits women from education, work or spending time with friends and family, leaving them very isolated.

Through our Women’s Rights Programme, funded by Irish Aid, we work at a community, local and national level to change this, including advocacy to improve local services and working with communities to dismantle gender stereotypes.


Mahabir Man Maktan, Nepal, once viewed women to be weak and needed to be controlled by men. For him women were meant to do household work. He shares how he changed his views and is now influences other men in the community to share caring responsibilities.

He spoke about his experience joining the local group set up by ActionAid “We discussed various topics and issues in the group such as toxic masculinity; various forms of violence and how it is impacting not only women but men and entire family to community; unpaid care burden of women, serious impact of alcoholism and benefits of reducing intake dose. We also sat for several couple counseling classes.”

Now I am supporting my wife in every way possible. I learned to cook and sharing responsibility by cooking, grinding, fetching water, feeding livestock, taking care of grandson and shepherding. I realized this late, but it was worth to realize for me for shake of my family.” He continued.


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