The Pandemic Highlights the Social Relevance of the Care Economy

The re-establishment of women's economic autonomy is one of the central axes of economic recovery for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Woman Post | Bryan Andres Murcia Molina

Listen to this article

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), headed by Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary, states in its recent report the great concern about the socioeconomic problems that millions of women are facing in the region as the result of the economic devastation caused by the pandemic, which magnifies and increases the levels of poverty and gender inequality. 

According to the report, the female labor force was the most affected, primarily for two reasons: the first has to do with the new social reality resulting from quarantines and remote work, due to the fact that domestic duties caused thousands of women to abandon the labor market.

Secondly, the sectors that were most affected by the restrictions are those that employ or used to employ women. Sectors such as tourism, manufacturing, commerce, and domestic work suffered major economic contractions, which resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs. According to Bárcena, 56.9% of women in Latin America and 54.3% in the Caribbean work in the industries that have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

An example of this is the domestic sector. Several media have reported that 91% of workers in this sector are women. The ECLAC report states that this sector is characterized by precariousness and the impossibility of performing the activity remotely. For this reason, it presented drops up to 46%, with Brazil, Colombia, and Chile as the countries with a drop above 40%.


As a result, socio-economic indicators showed large reductions. According to ECLAC, unemployment among women in the region reached 22%. Likewise, participation in the labor market decreased from 52% to 46%. As a result, it is estimated that there are around 118 million women living in poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean.

How to reactivate women's autonomy?

According to Bárcenas, "the pandemic is an opportunity to change the style of development." The problems of gender inequality and discrimination in the labor market are pre-pandemic socioeconomic challenges. Therefore, recovery measures must link sustainable and inclusive strategies to overcome a crisis that was exacerbated by COVID-19, in order to avoid a profound deepening of poverty among women.

In addition, the countries of the region should structure proposals focused on what is known as the care economy, which is understood as work that is not remunerated for the activities carried out in the home for the purpose of household maintenance and the care of people. For the report, it is necessary for governments to provide financial support for all those women who have had to withdraw from the labor market because of their duties at home.

In the same way, vaccination plans should prioritize sectors such as domestic work, in order to give a hand for the reactivation of the service sector.

The role of women in today's society is extremely important and deserves the attention of all governments, which must understand that the economic autonomy of women benefits the economic balance and improves the living conditions of thousands of families.