Care in Latin America and the Caribbean During the COVID-19: Towards Comprehensive Systems to Strengthen Response and Recovery
Care comprises the activities that enhance, both on a day-to-day basis and over generations, people’s physical and emotional wellbeing. It is essential work for sustaining human life and for the reproduction of the workforce and societies, representing a fundamental contribution to economic production, development, and wellbeing.
The current distribution of the responsibilities of care work is incredibly unequal, falling mainly on households and carried out mostly by women as unpaid work. Despite its importance, this work continues to lack visibility, and be underestimated and disregarded in the design of economic and social policies in Latin America and the Caribbean. Reflecting the stereotype of the feminization of care work, women are also overrepresented in the field of paid care work, which is generally characterized by low pay and unstable working conditions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the centrality of care, highlighting the unsustainability of its current organization. In Latin America and the Caribbean, since before the pandemic, women have dedicated three times the number of hours as men to unpaid work. This situation has been aggravated by the rising demand for care and the reduced supply of services caused by the social distancing and lockdown measures that have been adopted to curb the health crisis. Moreover, the so-called ‘new normal’ will involve important changes to education and employment, given that the social infrastructure is not in line with the new distancing measures, which creates new challenges in reorganizing productive and reproductive work in the medium term, and new pressure on the national education and health and social care systems beyond the crisis.
This document substantiates the importance of care work for societies, defines the care sector’s current condition in Latin America and the Caribbean and describes the impacts caused by the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the contingency measures that have been implemented in various countries in the region to address the crisis. The document concludes with a series of policy recommendations to address the care crisis as a way out of the COVID-19 crisis.