Highlighting the Invisibility of Unpaid Care

This is a three year project, part of the Gender, Power and Sexuality Programme, funded by Sida. We are exploring why, despite the substantial body of research on the issue, unpaid care work is merited little attention in development policy and programming. We are taking an action learning approach to engaging policy actors on unpaid care, tracking the effects, successes and failures of our policy influencing activities.

We are seeking out and exploiting opportunities to introduce the significance of unpaid care into global development organisations’ policy statements and programme documentation (e.g. the DAC Guidance on Women’s Economic Empowerment, the World Bank’s MDG report, bilateral agency evaluation tools).

In the first year of the programme we invested in:

  • collaborative planning work, including stakeholder mapping and introductory meetings with policymakers and practitioners in two large Asian countries – Bangladesh and Indonesia
  • an assessment of how women’s care work is affected by food and economic crisis and implications for public policy
  • work planning for engagement with global civil society to take lessons and advocacy to strategic international arenas, including feasibility assessments and networking

We have built relations with international (UN Women, Action Aid International, Oxfam GB) and national (Centre for Gender and Social Transformation at BRAC University, Bangladesh and SMERU, Indonesia) partners.

With our international partner, Action Aid, we hosted a two day workshop in London in September 2012 involving staff from international civil society organisations and movements to brainstorm and discuss an influencing strategy to put care on the global policy agenda. This workshop allowed us to:

  1. gain a greater understanding of what organisations are already doing in terms of research, advocacy and programming on unpaid care work
  2. identify opportunities to influence the global policy agenda to recognise and consider care in designing economic and social policies
  3. agree on a set of next steps to take individually and collectively to put care on the global policy agenda

In the remaining two years of the project, we plan to develop and use innovative communications strategies to draw attention to the gaps left in development policy by the neglect of care, generate further evidence of the impacts of taking care into account in policy and programme design, and consolidate networks of policymakers, practitioners and researchers working on or around issues of unpaid care.

Find out more about the research from this project and related work on Interactions.

Project details

start date
1 October 2011
end date
30 September 2014


About this project

Recent work

Working Paper

Unpaid Care Work in Bangladesh: Policies, Practice and Evidence

IDS Working Paper;452

This review examines selected policies and plans of the Government of Bangladesh and available research in Bangladesh in response to the need to address unpaid care work - the work, mainly done by women and girls, of caring for others (often called reproductive work), at the policy level.

10 March 2015


Making Care Visible: Influencing Story on Policy Change on Unpaid Care Work

This story of influence provides the background to how the unpaid care strand of the Sida sponsored IDS Gender, Power and Sexuality programme has been working with partners in South and South East Asia and in international civil society and policy spaces to raise the visibility of women's unpaid...

1 March 2015