Impacts of COVID-19 on care politics


The current Covid-19 crisis is having and will continue to have clear impacts on care work, in both the private and the public domain. First, the current crisis is increasing and changing care burdens especially for those working in the care sector, such as healthcare workers, domestic workers, of whom the majority are women - and often in low-paid, informal jobs. Globally, women make up 70 per cent of workers in the health and social sector (WHO, 2019). In many countries, this work is done by migrant workers under often already precarious conditions. 

Second, the closure of schools and childcare facilities in many countries means that children need to be taken care of at home. At the same time, many households are facing income losses due to the crisis. Some countries have already started adapting their social protection system in order to respond to this new scenario. For example, some countries have implemented care allowances for those who are not able to work because they need to take care of their dependents. In others, families with children are receiving cash transfers, child benefits, childcare vouchers or top-ups through existing programmes.  

It can be expected that most of the increase in domestic care work will be shouldered by women as they do on average three times as much unpaid care and domestic work at home as men (UN Women, 2020). Yet, the effects may vary on the pre-existing gender division of labour and gender attitudes. In some instances, having both parents together at home could provide an opportunity for reflection and transformative change of practices. In other cases, in families/communities with less progressive gender norms, women and girls will be excessively overburdened, with negative spillovers on IPV, mental illness etc. 

Against this background, a number of questions arise:

  • What are the impacts of the current Covid-19 on the care system and care workers?
  • How can and are social protection systems responding to the impacts of the pandemic on care work, in both the private and the public sphere?
  • What do experiences from other health crises, such as Zika in Latin America, tell us about care work, gender and social protection?
  • To which extent can the crisis and policy responses be gender-transformative? Can they change for example traditional divisions of labour or how we value care work?



Debora Diniz, IPPF/WHR

Rachel Moussié, WIEGO


Valeria Esquivel, ILO


Shahra Razavi, ILO


This was the eleventh webinar of the “Social protection responses to COVID-19” webinar series. The series is a joint effort initiated by the IPC-IGGIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and the Australia Government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) collaboration with the platform, and in cooperation with partners from different organisations. The SPIAC-B Gender Working Group, consisting of representatives from several agencies, including UNICEF, DFID, FAO, IPC-IG, UNICEF Innocenti, UN Women among others, will organize at least two webinars of the larger Social Protection responses to COVID-19 webinar series. Join our online community ''Social protection responses to COVID-19 [Task force]'' to learn more about the initiative and future webinars.