Valuing unpaid care work

Care sustains our societies but standard measures of economic activity only include care if it is provided for pay. The vast majority of care, however, is provided on an unpaid basis, mostly by women. Unpaid care work―including direct care for children, elders, or other persons as well as indirect care in the form of housework and managing and maintaining households―adds considerable value to total welfare and economic output. Because these household services are largely performed by women, standard measures that leave them out underestimate women’s economic contribution.

Counting Women's Work is an international research projected dedicated to measuring the gendered economy, including unpaid care work.  It is through measurement that we begin to value the role of care in society, to count the contributions of the women and men who provide it, and to reckon with its cost. 

It is also through measurement that unpaid care work can be integrated into social science and policy analysis in ways not previously possible, leading to better policy-making around issues of labor and economic growth, social welfare, gender equity, and human capital investment.


Unpaid care work creates our future

The chart below shows the average allocation of the costs of a child in the first year of life across 22 countries, distinguishing between costs of market goods and services versus the value of the unpaid time spent caring for the infant by parents and other family or community members.  Unpaid care work time is valued at a market wage for childcare workers in each country to make the comparison with market-based inputs. Results are expressed as percentage of total costs.

Costs of a newborn

Costs of a child in the first year of life, market goods & services versus unpaid care work, average percentage distribution across 22 countries