Briefing paper
26 October 2023

Building caring societies: how states can shift the gendered norms of care

Author: Aatif Somji
Published by: ODI
View brief [En | Fr | Es]
Cover of brief

Globally, women and girls carry out on average more than three times as much unpaid care work as men and boys, which equates to roughly 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work performed every single day. This brief outlines what government policy can do to foster more gender-equal norms relating to care.

Key messages

  • Care work – paid and unpaid – remains deeply gendered with negative financial impacts for women, but governments can take concerted action to shift wider social norms. This includes through: individual care policies, holistic care policy packages, and working with global alliances.
  • Narratives around care work must shift away from the idea of a private ‘burden’ to a shared responsibility. Care can be understood as a social good that is critical to well-being, providing the foundations upon which economies function, and so responsibility should be shared between the state community, family and individuals.
  • Policymakers are encouraged to take concrete actions to shift discriminatory gender norms relating to care by building caring societies through public care systems. This will distribute caring responsibilities more equally among all genders and ensure everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their economic potential.