As part of our research on making care visible, we examined state-owned public policies and programmes in two sectors where the provision of unpaid care is indisputably a factor in determining both uptake and outcome of services, namely Social Protection and early childhood development (ECD). A literature search was undertaken for these two sectors covering all low- and middle-income countries for the past 20 years, with reference to documentation also available on the internet. The review considered the extent to which policies and programmes in these sectors are being designed and implemented in ways that address unpaid care concerns and give the issue greater visibility. To find out more read our Thematic Review on Public Policies Related to Care and our policy brief Towards Gender Equality with Care-Sensitive Social Protection.
Policy findings on social protection
Successful social protection policy incorporates unpaid care into its aims, design, implementation, and evaluation. Yet unpaid care remains invisible in many policies.
- Universal social protection is needed. It should not just be hinged on employment. Universal care-sensitive social protection is necessary to address inequality and the unequal division of care work between women and men, households and the state.
- The recognition of unpaid care work can make social protection programmes more effective, but conversely its exclusion can stop them from being transformative. For instance, unconditional cash transfers can recognise the extra work that women spend on care work and provide support for dependents and carers. If obtaining social protection is too time consuming, however, women may not be able to access it.
- Practical ways of making social protection easier to access include:
- Raising awareness amongst frontline staff of women’s care responsibilities
- Using mobile clinics to reduce the distances women must travel for healthcare
- Undertaking public works that make women’s activities easier, such as building roads to schools and establishing water points closer to women’s homes
In the Ain el-Sira cash transfer programme in Egypt, compensation was provided to women for time spent fulfilling programme conditions.
- Carers need to be represented in decisions made within social protection programmes. A feedback and grievance procedure should be put in place to enable programme participants to assess the impact of social protection programmes on their unpaid care work responsibilities.
- It is not enough to simply design care-sensitive social protection programmes. They need to be continually monitored and evaluated.
We have developed a database of social protection policies and programmes, which contains the data refered to in the above publications. There are four types of social protection policies and programmes covered: conditional cash transfers (CCTs), public works, social transfers, and unconditional cash transfers (UCTs).
The database covers 50+ countries and over 260 state-owned public policies and programmes. It also highlights which policies and programmes take unpaid care work into consideration and indicates the extent to which they recognise women’s unpaid care work, reduce the drudgery associated with performing care and/or redistribute responsibilities for care (e.g. towards the state, community, men.)
The four types of social protection policies and programmes explained
Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) are programmes that aim to reduce poverty by transferring cash, generally to poor households, on the condition that those households meet certain criteria. These criteria may include enrolling children into public schools, getting regular check-ups at the doctor's office or receiving vaccinations.
Public works programmes are a form of conditional transfer whereby cash or food is given in return for work on public infrastructure projects, such as road building.
Social transfers are non-contributory (e.g. non-contributory pensions, child benefit, disability allowance) social assistance provided by public and civic bodies to those living in poverty or in danger of falling into poverty.
Unconditional Cash Transfers (UCTs) are programmes that aim to reduce poverty by providing transfers including social pensions, disability pensions, child and family support grants, and other cash grants to vulnerable individuals and households without any conditions upon the receivers' actions.
Integrated Social Protection takes a multi-sectoral approach when addressing both social and economic vulnerabilities, as well as structural and shock-related vulnerabilities. It tends to frame social protection strategies within a broader set of social and economic policies.