One of six global trends in health equity

Building a Safer, Fairer Future for All Care Work

Economies that recognize, reduce, and redistribute unpaid care work, and governments that are committed to rewarding and representing paid care work, are essential for supporting women’s economic empowerment and health equity.

Global Trend

What is changing?

  • Unpaid care work during the COVID-19 pandemic increased for both men and women however, mothers were nearly three times more likely than fathers to take on the majority of unpaid care work when schools closed.

  • By 2030, 2.3 billion people will require care, due to increased births and aging populations.

  • Women saw larger job losses than men during the pandemic in every region of the world due to overrepresentation in the hardest hit sectors (e.g., hospitality) and the rising need for unpaid care work.

  • If unpaid care work were paid, it would represent US$11 trillion or 9% of global GDP.

How are specific groups impacted?

  • Globally, women and girls do three times more unpaid care work than men.

  • Among the 38 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), many paid care workers are migrant women who are often underpaid in the informal economy and not eligible for pensions or social security.

  • There is no country where the division of unpaid care work is equal between men and women.

How is this trend reflected in the U.S.?

U.S. Context, Care Work icon.


Women of color and immigrants are vastly overrepresented in paid care, and are a growing segment of the workforce: 61% of paid care workers are people of color and 27% are immigrants.

Quick Facts

  • Women make up over 75% of caregivers for adults in the U.S. and over 90% of paid caregivers.
  • Care work is significantly undervalued, and thus underpaid: In the U.S., 44% of paid care workers live in or near poverty.
  • Over 50 million Americans provide unpaid care for a loved one, and many may be “sandwiched” between caring for an older person and a child.
  • In the pandemic, 48% of U.S. mothers shifted to part-time jobs or left their jobs, particularly mothers with low incomes and mothers of color.
  • Unpaid care work is associated with a greater mental health burden.
  • The U.S. lacks public funding for care. Medicaid and Medicare cover doctor’s visits, inpatient hospital care, and other medical services, but do not cover childcare or long-term home care. This places care responsibilities on family members, who often must take time off work, resulting in lost income.
  • The U.S. is the only OECD country that does not mandate any paid parental leave. Just 23% of all U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employer, and only 6% of low earners have access to paid family leave.

Solutions From Around the World

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  • Alphabetical Listing

Crosscutting Themes

Multisolving for Climate Change

Equitably Leveraging AI

Multisolving for Climage Change icon.


During climate-related disasters, women are more likely to be the last to leave or remain behind due to care responsibilities. How might the needs of caregivers themselves be supported during and after climate emergencies?

Climate-related events, such as heatwaves, fires, and severe storms, are increasingly disturbing school systems. In these moments, caregivers may have to juggle unforeseen care responsibilities with work or other commitments. How might employers adjust leave practices to better support caregivers with climate events in mind?

Equitably Leveraging AI icon.


During COVID-19, in most countries around the world, women were spending over 30 hours per week on childcare alone—almost equivalent to the time spent at a full-time job. How might AI provide the greatest benefit in reducing the time caregivers spend performing caregiving tasks?

Human relationships between caregivers and care recipients are an invaluable aspect of care. How can the need for human connection in care be balanced with optimizing the efficiencies that AI offers?

Connections to Nutrition


Caregivers are often primary drivers of their household’s nutrition, carrying out tasks including grocery shopping, meal preparation, and cooking. Not only are caregivers often responsible for addressing any unmet nutritional needs of their care recipients, but the stress of caregiving may place caregivers themselves at risk of poor nutrition.

Related Content


Six Global Trends in Health Equity

Explore the full analysis of six health equity trends emerging across the globe to learn how communities and decisionmakers are responding to them and their implications for the U.S.