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WHO: Women perform 76% of all unpaid care activities — in poor working conditions

WHO: Women perform 76% of all unpaid care activities — in poor working conditions
March 14
10:41 2024

A new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has illustrated how gender inequalities in health and care work negatively impact women, health systems and health outcomes.

In the report titled ‘Fair share for health and care: gender and the undervaluation of health and care work’, the WHO said underinvestment in health systems results in a vicious cycle of unpaid health and care work.

The health body said this in turn lowers women’s participation in paid labour markets, harming women’s economic empowerment and hampering gender equality.

“Women comprise 67% of the paid global health and care workforce. In addition to this paid work, it has been estimated that women perform an estimated 76% of all unpaid care activities,” the report reads. 

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“Work that is done primarily by women tends to be paid less and have poor working conditions.”

The report said low pay and demanding working conditions are commonly found in the health and care sector, adding that devaluing caregiving, often performed primarily by women, negatively impacts wages, working conditions, productivity and the economic footprint of the sector.

The report also noted that decades of chronic underinvestment in health and care work is contributing to a growing global crisis of care. 

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“With stagnation in progress towards universal health coverage (UHC), resulting in 4.5 billion people lacking full coverage of essential health services, women may take on even more unpaid care work,” the report reads.

“The deleterious impact of weak health systems combined with increasing unpaid health and care work are further straining the health of caregivers and the quality of services.

“Investments in health and care systems not only accelerate progress on UHC, they redistribute unpaid health and care work.

“When women participate in paid health and care employment, they are economically empowered and health outcomes are better.

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“Health systems need to recognize, value and invest in all forms health and care work.”

Jim Campbell, WHO director for health workforce, said the report highlights how gender-equitable investments in health and care work would reset the value of health and care and drive fairer and more inclusive economies.

“We are calling upon leaders, policy-makers and employers to action investment: it is time for a fair share for health and care,” he said.

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