It is estimated that over half of all work by the world’s population is domestic care work (Carrasco, 2007: 157), and yet most of this work is not included in public accounts.
It’s easy to forget that what is produced in the market and incomes that are earned from exchange in the market depend on unpaid work. The major reason this is so easy to forget is that the capitalist market system rests upon a liberal ideology which separates public and private spheres and in so doing generates a hierarchy of the value of labour inside and outside the market. In an era where most workers sell their labour (receive salaries) or merely exchange their labour for money (when self-employed), value is almost always defined by economic contribution in the market.

Labour which generates a market income is believe to be of high value and labour which does not is deemed to be of low value. Given that men are traditionally the primary bread-winners (earn a market income in the public sphere) and women the primary carers (no market income in the private sphere), this hierarchy reinforces a social pyramid within the household and means that unpaid care work and those that carry out this work (mostly women) is undervalued.

In a review of unpaid care concerns in public policy by Chopra et al (2013) it was found that only 25 out of 107 social protection policies and 41 out of 270 Early Childhood Development (ECD) policies expressed an intent to address unpaid care concerns; and among those that did recognise care, the main focus was on redistributing care responsibilities from the family to the state.

Work Dichotomy
Visible (accounted)
Invisible (unaccounted)
Market (productive)
Non-market (unproductive)
Socially valued
Socially unvalued
Regulated (formal)
Unregulated (informal)

1. What is unpaid work and what is it worth?
2. What does unpaid care work cost society?
3. What is to be done?