Care work, paid and unpaid, is a reality for most women all over the world and is characterized by enormous gender asymmetries. The global financial and economic crisis and other international challenges such as growing poverty, food crises, climate change, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, make a care crisis more and more evident.
The programme of WIDE (Women in Development Europe) Annual Conference 2009, starting on 18 June at the University of Basel, will dedicate its opening day to a new comparative study on the political and social economy of care by the United Nations Research Institute of Social Development (UNRISD), which has taken the debates on the care economy within the context of more developed countries to developing countries.
UNRISD has been working on this research project since 2006, examining six country studies in the South (Argentina, India, Nicaragua, South Africa, South Korea and Tanzania), as well as Japan and Switzerland in the North.
Shahra Razavi, Research Coordinator for the UNRISD programme on Gender and Development, will present the key findings of the UNRISD study, which will be used as a starting point at the conference to examine the dimensions, organization, gender composition and power dynamics of the care sector.
The topic of this year’s WIDE Annual Conference is feminist responses to the care crises. The misleading but generally accepted assumption is that women are dedicated to care by nature and that they have enough time and capacity to provide care work. Alternative development concepts and economic structures, like a care- and provision driven economy, in which women have always been key actors, are persistently being marginalized. And moreover, global and local care regimes are establishing new unequal divisions of labour among women of different classes and origins.
Under the current global economic crisis, this conference and the research findings by UNRISD are of timely significance. Shahra Razavi said;
“There is a push factor. Women are pushed into the labour market and they have to stay there, and take on more casual and less remunerated work, because the male breadwinners’ wages are not coming in. So we probably are going to see an intensification of informal, casual work which is also very time-consuming. That is going to have implications for the care economy”.
Tina Goethe, Policy Adviser to Food Sovereignty at SWISSAID and WIDE Board Member, notes that experience from past crises have shown us how, “women were the first to lose out and to suffer the consequences of the crisis. So we (WIDE) thought it was really an important moment to discuss the role and the significance of the care economy in the multiple crises”.
Shahra Razavi will be available for interview to talk about the findings of this UNRISD project either via telephone or in person (Basel/Geneva, Switzerland). For further information or to schedule an interview, please contact Mei Yan or Richard Warren at UNRISD on +41 (0) 22 917 1497.
Notes to editors
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- WIDE is a European feminist network of women’s organizations, development NGOs, gender specialists and women’s rights activists. For more than 25 years, WIDE has dedicated itself to raising awareness, monitoring and influencing international economic and development policies and practices from a gender perspective, promoting women’s rights as the basis for the development of a more just and democratic world order.
- The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) was created in 1963 and is an autonomous UN agency engaging in multidisciplinary research on the social dimensions of contemporary problems affecting development. Through its research, UNRISD stimulates dialogue and contributes to policy debates on key issues of social development within and outside the UN system.
- Shahra Razavi is Research Coordinator of the UNRISD programme area examining Gender and Development. She specializes in the gender dimensions of social development, with a particular focus on livelihoods and social policies. She has led the Institute’s research projects Gender, Poverty and Well-Being; Agrarian Change, Gender and Land Rights; Globalization, Export-Oriented Employment for Women and Social Policy; and work on Gender Justice, Development and Rights which was carried out as part of the Institute's contribution to the Beijing Plus 5 Review Process. Her most recent journal articles include “Liberalization and the debates on women’s access to land” (Third World Quarterly, 28/8, 2007); “The return to social policy and the persistent neglect of unpaid care” (Development and Change, 38/3, 2007); “Does paid work enhance women’s access to welfare? Evidence from selected industrializing countries” (Social Politics, 4/1, 2007); and The Gendered Impacts of Liberalization: Towards 'Embedded Liberalism'? (Routledge, 2009).
- UNRISD Research Analyst, Silke Staab, will also participate in the conference. WIDE Annual Conference 2009 will also involve the presentation of four new books from Wendy Harcourt, Kathleen Lynch, Isabella Bakker, Rachel Silvey and Carmen de la Cruz, depicting feminist concerns on social reproduction, care work, financing for development and body politics.
- More information on WIDE Annual Conference 2009 is available at http://www.wide-network.ch/en/activities/wide_conference_2009/index.php.
- An UNRISD podcast featuring the research project on the care economy and WIDE Annual Conference 2009 is available at http://www.unrisd.org/news/podcast/16-06-2009. For more information, or to request permission to rebroadcast this podcast please contact the UNRISD Press Office.