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It’s time to care about care work

Closing gender gaps with 4 solutions and 1 data challenge

By Mercedes de los Santos, Project Manager, The Open Data Charter

Photo by Hush Naidoo Jade Photography on Unsplash

Earlier this month was International Women’s Day, so those of you reading this blog today may have heard, read or hopefully participated in a discussions with colleagues, friends and family where somebody brought up the fact that one of the ways in which gender inequality is expressed is through the unequal distribution of care work, which reinforces the structural disadvantages that women and girls face in developing economic, political and social autonomy in the workforce and in society.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of the work of millions of people in essential occupations such as health, care and social work, where low pay, long hours and difficult working conditions were already characteristic of these female-dominated jobs. Additionally the burdens of unpaid care and domestic work increased exponentially due to lockdowns. For many women, sustaining face-to-face or remote work and simultaneously meeting care demands has been very difficult. Some lost their jobs and others were forced to reduce their working hours.

The lack of transparency and the inconsistency of available information make it difficult to understand the causes and effects of these gender gaps and slow down progress in promoting gender equality in care work, as well as the economic recognition that care work should receive.

Solution #1: Open up quality gender and care work data.

The Open Data Charter believes that public and accessible data can benefit societies and inform evidence-based policy making.We hosted a session at Mozilla Festival 2022 to share some thoughts and experiences around this topic, and discuss with the community some promising solutions to address these challenges and tackle it though open, shared, and trustworthy data.

Solution #2: Create a network of care services that addresses the demand for care.

From this perspective, Diana Parra, Undersecretary of Care and Equality of the Secretariat of Equality of Bogotá, explained the building of the Care District System, a network of care services articulated to address the demands in a co-responsible way. The point of view with which this work approaches the issue of care, is highly innovative. It recognises the existence of multiple actors who contribute to alleviating care burdens and adds them to the system. That is, it includes in the analysis and data collection those sectors that can contribute to personal development, self-care, breathing space, income generation and involvement in political participation.

Solution #3: Map stakeholders and actors to understand the information gaps influencing care policies.

Marisa Miodosky from the Statistical Bureau of the Government of the City of Buenos Aires stressed that in order to understand how care is organised we have to understand its conceptual framework, the diamond with four vertices that represents the services that are provided by the government. The Care Indicators System of the City of Buenos Aires, presented by Marisa on the panel, therefore seeks to make visible the integration of all data providers and producers of information in the same open source system. To this end, the construction of a map of actors with the support of international organisations was crucial to begin to understand where are (and still are) the main information gaps that influence the improvement (or not) of care policies.

Solution #4: Gender inequality is everybody’s problem, so everybody should start caring.

Valentina Perrota, gender researcher at UDELAR, remarked that in addition to meeting the demand for information on care, it is necessary to realise that today’s demand is only demanded by some social groups and should become a widespread citizen demand.

The first investigations on the matter in Latin America was when a survey was conducted ontime-use: how the time of unpaid work is distributed and how it is (or is not) divided between men and women. And this tool was the first to show the existing inequality through data. Then the social representations of care were studied, who are the people that society believes should provide care and what are the degrees of dependence of the population on care. Without these statistics, there would be no policies today to meet this demand.

Challenge: How do we get the public to care about data so that we can provide solutions and also monitor and evaluate the progress of gender equality?

Despite progress, the challenge remains. How do we demonstrate the impact of data and information systems on care policies? Civil society and academia then become key actors in monitoring the commitments made by governments to close gender gaps and address gender inequities. Margarita Yepez, Executive Director of Datalat, highlighted the need to generate a critical mass who is curious about data that can monitor and identify its evolution, as well as information gaps.

The challenge for publishing care work indicators data is not only to describe how many new care services were created, but to show how this contributes to less inequality and greater economic autonomy for women. The demand for care has become a demand from the public, which in turn demands public policies.

If you signed up for Mozfest, you may access the session (conducted in Spanish) here: https://schedule.mozillafestival.org/session/9HK788-1

Our Care Indicators System project with the Government of Buenos Aires City was part of our partnership with IDRC and the OD4D network to promote a feminist open government approach to close the gender pay gaps in LMICs contexts in the Global South.

For further information on this project, please the final report here. You may contact us at info@opendatacharter.org or miodosky@estadisticaciudad.gob.ar.

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