Balancing unpaid care work and paid work

How can women’s economic empowerment (WEE) policy and programming both generate paid work that empowers women and provide more support for their unpaid care work responsibilities?

Time to Care

With our project now concluded, we will be sharing our findings in multiple formats including:

  1. A synthesis report which shares our innovative research methodology, findings and policy recommendations
  2. An animation showing how we can change and improve the balance paid work and unpaid care for women
  3. A series of audio-photo videos painting a stark picture of the impact on poor women of the double burden of unpaid care work and (poorly) paid work
  4. Over 100 case studies detailing the lives and struggles of many of the women who took part in the research


The 27-month ‘Balancing unpaid care work and paid work: successes, challenges and lessons for women’s economic empowerment programmes and policies’ project aimed to create knowledge about how women’s economic empowerment (WEE) policy and programming can generate paid work that both empowers women and provides more support for their unpaid care work responsibilities.

Research took place in four countries across two regions:

  • India and Nepal in South Asia
  • Rwanda and Tanzania in sub-Saharan Africa

The research addressed the following questions

  1. How do women and families in low-income households balance unpaid care work with income-earning activities?
  2. How, and to what extent, do women’s economic empowerment programmes and policies consider unpaid care tasks?
  3. How can these programmes and policies enable women’s participation in paid work, and sustain their incomes, while ensuring good quality childcare for low-income families?

Previous research has focused on the time women spend on care work and other unpaid contributions to the economy.

This project seeks to fill research gaps by focusing on the social and economic implications of how care is organised. It examined how women’s empowerment policies and programmes affect the organisation of care.

The aim is to inform policies that consider care arrangements while also increasing women’s participation in the labour force.

Find out more about this project and see the research results and engagement actvities on the Interactions for Gender Justice website.

Who implemented and funded the project?

This project was part of the Growth and Equal Opportunities for Women (GrOW) programme, and was implemented by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), the Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST) in India and BRAC’s East Africa Research and Evaluation Unit (REU) in Uganda, along with ActionAid International (AAI) and Oxfam GB.

Read more about the GrOW programme on IDRC’s website.

Project details

start date
1 January 2015
end date
30 September 2017



Image of Deepta Chopra
Deepta Chopra

Research Fellow

Image of Elena Zambelli
Elena Zambelli

Research Officer

Image of Keetie Roelen
Keetie Roelen

Research Fellow / Co-Director, Centre for Social Protection

Elena Zambelli

Recent work


Assessing Unpaid Care Work: A Participatory Toolkit


This is a participatory toolkit for understanding unpaid care work and its distribution within local communities and families. Together, these tools provide a way of ascertaining and capturing research participants’ understanding of women’s unpaid care work – giving special attention to...

Image of Deepta Chopra
Deepta Chopra & 2 others

7 March 2021


Cash transfers and gender equality

IDS researchers attending this year's Commission for the Status of Women highlight limitations of cash transfers in achieving women's empowerment if they are not coupled with access to adequate public services and infrastructure.

11 March 2019