Balancing Paid Work and Unpaid Care Work to Achieve Women’s Economic Empowerment

Deepta Chopra


It is widely known that women’s economic empowerment can lead to economic growth. However, it is important to understand women’s economic empowerment as not simply about labour force participation, but also about the choice to work, the choice of sector, location and working hours. Taking unpaid care work into account in policies and programmes has the potential to significantly strengthen the empowering outcomes of women’s participation in paid work.

This Policy Briefing looks at the interactions between the market and the household and the consequences of unpaid care work on the type, location and nature of paid work that women and girls can undertake, thereby impacting their economic empowerment. Further, it outlines policy actions that can help prevent women from being forced into making choices that have negative social, economic and political outcomes.


  • Recognise that time poverty is a critical determinant of women’s poverty, and a critical determinant of their economic empowerment. Time-use surveys are a useful way to capture the contribution that women make to the economy.
  • Redistribute unpaid care work from poor families to the state through provision of public services, infrastructure and care-sensitive social protection.
  • When creating employment opportunities for women, put regulations in place to ensure decent work that takes into account their unpaid care work responsibilities as per their lifecycle and family structure requirements.


Chopra, D. (2015). Balancing Paid Work and Unpaid Care Work to Achieve Women’s Economic Empowerment. IDS Policy Briefing 83. Brighton: IDS