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Situation of unpaid work and gender in the Caribbean: The measurement of unpaid work through time-use studies


  • Stuart, Sheila


individuals spend their time, on a daily or weekly basis, is time-use surveys. These surveys take many different forms to collect vital information which can be used to estimate not only the value of paid and unpaid work, but also the composition of the labour force. The time-use survey is the only available tool for measuring unpaid care work and is also a more cost effective method of collecting timely and accurate data on the gender division of labour within households and the interdependence of the paid and unpaid work undertaken by women and men. This data can be used to enhance the formulation of evidence based policies for pro-poor growth towards the achievement of gender equality and poverty reduction. While many countries in other regions, including Latin America have undertaken national timeuse surveys, the Caribbean remains the only region yet to carry out a full scale survey. This is deemed to be another one of the major data gap in statistical systems in the Caribbean, where the valuation of unpaid work is statistically invisible. This is a serious omission because it means that unpaid work, particularly unpaid care work, despite its important contribution to economic and social development, is not reflected in the economic statistics used for policy making —namely the national accounts and the official labour market statistics. While definitions of care work vary, it can be described as a category of work which includes activities carried out in the service of others, deemed crucial for human well being and economic development (Razavi, 2007). Care work is often differentiated from other types of work because it is intrinsically linked to labour undertaken out of a sense of duty, responsibility and love/affection, that is, it is often viewed as an emotionally driven occupation. The unpaid care work performed primarily by women, underpins all societies, contributing to well-being, social development and economic growth. Care work, whether paid or unpaid provides vital services to assist with the development of capabilities in human beings. It involves a variety of domestic tasks, such as the preparation of food, cleaning, washing and ironing of clothes, the collection of water and fuel for cooking, as well as, the care of mostly dependant family members, including children, older persons and persons with disabilities. Care work is not only carried out immediate households, or for dependants, but also within communities. It is estimated that if unpaid care work were assigned a monetary value it would constitute between 10 and 39 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, it is generally unrecognised and under-valued by policymakers and legislators.

Suggested Citation

  • Stuart, Sheila, 2014. "Situation of unpaid work and gender in the Caribbean: The measurement of unpaid work through time-use studies," Studies and Perspectives – ECLAC Subregional Headquarters for The Caribbean 34, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
  • Handle: RePEc:ecr:col033:36619
    Note: Includes bibliography.

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nancy Folbre, 2006. "Measuring Care: Gender, Empowerment, and the Care Economy," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(2), pages 183-199.
    2. Francavilla, Francesca & Giannelli, Gianna Claudia & Grotkowska, Gabriela & Socha, Mieczyslaw, 2011. "Use of Time and Value of Unpaid Family Care Work: A Comparison between Italy and Poland," IZA Discussion Papers 5771, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Rania Antonopoulos, 2008. "The Unpaid Care Work–Paid Work Connection," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_541, Levy Economics Institute.
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    Cited by:

    1. Campaña, Juan Carlos & Gimenez-Nadal, J. Ignacio & Molina, José Alberto, 2015. "Gender differences in the distribution of total work-time of Latin- American families: the importance of social norms," MPRA Paper 62759, University Library of Munich, Germany.


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