Baby's hand over mother's hand

In our project, we aim to promote and advocate for gender and socioeconomic equalities. We do this by working to reduce gender gaps in economic outcomes and by showing and properly valuing social and economic contributions of caregivers; and integrating care into macroeconomic policy making toolkits.

In this era of demographic shifts, economic change and chronic underinvestment in care provisioning, innovative policy solutions are desperately needed, now more than ever. Sustainable and inclusive development requires gender-sensitive policy tools that integrate new understandings of care work and its connections with labor market supply and economic and welfare outcomes.

The Care Work and the Economy Project, currently based at the Economics Department of American University and co-led by Maria S. Floro and Elizabeth King, includes more than 30 scholars around the globe, working closely together to provide policy makers, scholars, researchers and advocacy groups with gender-aware data, empirical evidence and analytical tools needed to promote creative macroeconomic and social policy solutions. In the next phase of the project, Care Economies in Context, we will be scaling up our project to include 8 different countries, in 4 global regions. I will be leading this next phase of the project, which will be based at the University of Toronto.

I define Care work is defined broadly as work and relationships that are necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance and protection of all people – young and old, able bodied, disabled, and frail. This definition may seem broad – but care– at its core is a very basic human need and a necessity. Whether we know it or now, we all participate in providing care work – paid or unpaid, and in receiving care every day.

By care economy, I am referring to the sector of economy that is responsible for the provision of care and services that contribute to the nurturing and reproduction of current and future populations. More specifically, it involves child care, elder care, education, healthcare, and personal social and domestic services that are provided in both paid and unpaid forms and within formal and informal sectors.

Care work is important because it is important work that sustains life. It is also important now in particular because it is one of the fastest expanding economic sectors and a major driver of employment growth and economic development around the world. For example, across the OCED, the service sector economy now accounts for over 70 percent of total employment and GDP. In lower- and middle-income countries, it is estimated to comprise nearly 60 percent of GDP. Within the service sector economy, care services is one of the fastest growing subsectors.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that the global employment in care jobs is expected to grow from 206 million to 358 million by 2030 simply based on sociodemographic changes. The figure will be even more dramatic to 475 million if governments invest resources to meet the UN sustainable development goal targets on education, health, long-term care and gender equality.

In Canada, the service sector already makes up for 75 percent of employment and 78 percent of GDP. Within this sector, healthcare, social assistance and education services are key drivers of economic and employment growth. In the U.S., healthcare is already the largest employer, larger than steel and auto industries put together. In short, our current and future economy is and will be increasing dominated by care services and care work.

However, at the same time, much of the care work continues to be performed for no pay, by families and friends, at home and in communities. This unpaid care work is not including in in our national GDP because GDP only takes into account work that is done for pay in the formal market. Therefore, if we only look at the GDP as a measure of the economy and economy growth, we miss a huge segment of the economy and economic activities. As the pandemic has shown, without both paid or unpaid care work, our economy will not be able to function effectively, nor would it be able to sustain itself.

What we are trying to do in our project is to make the care economy clearer and more visible by measuring and mapping out the size and shape of the economy, and to develop macroeconomic models that would help policymakers and civil society actors to develop better policies and better strategies to ensure more sustainable and equality inducing economic growth.

Listen to the full talk “The Care Work and the Economy Project” to learn about what the care economy is and why we should know more about it, particularly now.



The blog was authored by Ito Peng, contributing researcher for the Understanding and Measuring Care research cluster


Faculti, an organization that presents digital media from leading experts and academics outlining their work, recently released a digital presentation by the Care Work and the Economy Principal Investigator Dr. Maria S. Floro entitled “Macroeconomic Policies, Care and Gender in the Post-COVID Era.” The discussion describes the interconnections between the crisis of care, the deepening ecological crisis and growth and accumulation processes.

There are many common threads with the climate and ecological crisis and the care crisis. Significantly, the idea that economic growth is overall beneficial. The type of economic growth generally pursued worldwide has not only increased stresses put upon the earth’s resource base but also on care labor capacity, which is similarly but wrongly perceived to be of infinite supply. Moreover, arguments that equate economic growth with overall improvement fail to recognize the distributional element of rising income inequality, which is far more nuanced. In fact, among countries that are higher income, gains from economic growth within those nations do not trickle down to everyone. When looking at care, the widening income equality gaps has shifted distribution of care givers across social classes and national boundaries. As a result, the quality and adequacy of care within a single nation can be very different, which exacerbates differences in social reproduction.

At the same time, income inequality has created a solution for the care needs of those that have the means to hire care for children and elderly, because care workers in those sectors are often paid low wages. But for the working poor, hiring care work help is inaccessible due to financial constraints, therefore they rely on their kinship networks to help provide this care. Furthermore, much of the care work burden still falls on women even as they enter to labor force. Economics and social policy in many parts of the world continue to neglect the heavy work burden put upon women and the necessity to balance household care activities and market work. What can also be observed is a global care supply chain, with the migration of women and girls to urban areas to provide care for wealthier families. Care itself is becoming one of the drivers of income inequality.

The economy is not all about material production; it is really about human vision and social provisions. However, an illusion has been created that unpaid care work is a natural resource that serves as an input for market production to promote GDP growth. However, this idea does not take into account that the wellbeing of people, especially the elderly, the sick and children should be an end in and of itself, to achieve sustainable growth. There is much work to be done to address these issues. To begin, economists must envision long term horizons that look forward to future generations while also taking into account the interdependence of life and moral responsibility. They must also integrate care and environmental consequences into our economic policy tools. Overall a new economic paradigm that includes green ecology and feminist economic concerns is needed.

Link to Part 1 of this blog here.

With rollback of the developmental state under the neoliberal policy regime, financial inclusion has come to be adopted as a developmental strategy. Micro-credit schemes, which were initially promoted as tools for gender-empowerment and poverty alleviation, have in the process become increasingly absorbed within the sphere of mainstream private finance. The relatively low rates of default in this sector have attracted an influx of funds from profit oriented financial institutions. The focus has shifted from the  sustainability of income generation for borrowers to that of the profitability of the lending institution. Given the higher transaction costs associated with small loans and extending outreach to marginal low income households this change of focus has undermined the social mission of microfinance to reach the poorest and most neglected households.  Social priorities are being subordinated to commercial considerations.

The impact of micro-credit on both poverty and gender relations has been extensively studied. However, the implications of the growth of micro-credit for the care-economy, and their repercussions in the wider macro-economy have received less analytical attention. The neglect of the implication microfinance for the provision of care labor is surprising in the light of the original mission of microfinance, which targeted the female worker in rural areas in developing countries, with less access to earning opportunities and disproportionate responsibility for the care work. The increase in market labor implies a claim on the time of working women. In the absence of social provisioning of care, this claim on the labor time of women could lead to a squeeze on the time of rural working women

A simple two-sector post-Keynesian model allows the integration of the role of demand and care work into the analysis of microfinance. This investigation demonstrates is that micro financed enterprises face a structural constraint on the demand side from overall macroeconomic conditions, and on the supply side from the responsibility for unpaid care work borne by the female beneficiary of microfinance. Paradoxically, microfinance has been espoused as a developmental strategy in precisely the period when the role of the developmental state has been eclipsed, and cutbacks in public spending on care provisioning have been prescribed.

Slowdowns in the wider economy, would lower the demand for the output of the microfinance sector, and hence undermine the viability of these enterprises. The capacity of the microfinance sector to provide the impetus to broader demand growth in the economy is likely to be more limited in the absence of public policies to stimulate demand and investment. The capacity of microfinance to alleviate poverty and lift incomes is thus dependent on conditions in, and linkages with the wider macroeconomy. A vibrant and stable macroeconomy is the only sustainable basis for a stable microfinance sector.

We also draw attention to some of the complexities of the impact of microfinance on the provision of care. The home-based nature of microenterprises perpetuates the gendered asymmetries of care responsibility within the household. While higher female earnings can alleviate the burden of care by making care work more effective and by enabling the market to substitute for unpaid care, at the lower income levels and in a context of the inadequate social provision of care the gendered responsibility for care remains a critical constraint for the female beneficiary of micro-finance.

Some clear policy prescriptions emerge from this investigation. Donors and development agencies have been encouraging raising interest rates in order to ensure the viability and profitability of microfinance lenders.  Our model suggests that high-interest rates will actually undermine the scope of microfinance as a path to better and sustainable livelihoods for poor households in rural areas. Higher interest rates in this sector impose a higher burden on the labor time of the female worker with a  consequent squeeze of care-labor or the own labor time.

More significantly, the analysis suggests that microfinance cannot be an effective path to poverty alleviation or gender empowerment unless it is backed by investment in the social provisioning of care.  The success of microfinance as a developmental strategy depends on wider policies that support demand and the social provision of care.  There is, in the final analysis, no substitute for a developmental strategy based on public investment in support of both job creation and social provision of care.


This blog was authored by Ramaa Vasudevan and Srinivas Raghavendran are both expert researchers for the Care Work and the Economy Project within the Rethinking Macroeconomics working group. To learn more read the CWE-GAM working paper upon which this blog was based here.

The Intensive Course in Gender-Sensitive Macroeconomic Modeling for Policy Analysis to be held at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (Blithewood, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY) in July 2020 has been postponed to July 2021.

The decision was made by the organizing committee, in consideration of the health and safety of both participants and instructors, as well as assessments of current and potential travel restrictions in the U.S. and around the world.

The July 2021 Course will be held at the Levy Economics Institute, exact dates and details will be posted in future announcements. We expect to provide more specific information by Fall 2020. Please continue to visit the Care Work and the Economy website and the Levy Economics Institute website and follow @careworkeconomy on Twitter for future announcements about the course.

The Organizing Committee of the Intensive Course in Gender-Sensitive Macroeconomic Modeling for Policy Analysis would like to thank each of the 160 applicants received from 40+ countries. If you have further questions about the course, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Care Work and the Economy project at American University (


The CWE-GAM team presents an engendered macroeconomic model as a tool to analyze the role of gender equality and fiscal policy on growth and development.[1]The model incorporates realistic structural features of a market economy –such as excess production capacity and involuntary unemployment– and incorporates an unpaid reproductive sector as well as the physical and social sectors in the public and private market economy. The addition of the unpaid reproductive sector explicitly incorporates the provision of domestic care, establishing a more holistic representation of how the workforce is kept fed, healthy, and able to work. This three-sector model is designed to serve as a tool for policy analysis and gender-responsive budgeting to develop a policy mix targeted toward more gender-equitable development. This brief provides a general overview of the model and example policy analyses.

Download Policy Brief

For complete details of the model and discussion of related literature, please see the full working paper published to the Care Work and the Economy website click here


Cem Oyvat presenting paper at conference

The call for applications for the  Intensive Course in Gender-Sensitive Macroeconomic Modeling for Policy Analysis to be held at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (Blithewood, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY) from July 8-14, 2020 is now open.  The institute is sponsored by: the Care Work and the Economy Project, Program on Gender Analysis in Economics at American University, and the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.  

The purpose of this course is to engage with fellow economists to enhance capacity building in research and teaching of gender-sensitive economic analysis, with a focus on care and macroeconomic policy aspects. The course will be built on four pillars, namely: a) understanding and measuring the care economy; b) adapting social accounting matrices to account for paid and unpaid care activities; c) integrating the information from time-use surveys on unpaid care activities with other relevant sources of information, such as national income accounts, labor force surveys, and household or special surveys; and d) performing policy-relevant economic analyses that take systematic account of the interlinkages between care, macroeconomic processes, and distribution. Our goal is to guide the participants toward the formulation of viable research projects focused on addressing care needs in developing countries through a better understanding of the care economy and the formulation of gender-sensitive macroeconomic policies. Hence, the program will be comprised of lectures by experts, hands-on training in analytics, and mentoring.

We are especially interested in participants who either would like to be or are currently involved in research aimed at influencing policymaking in order to address care needs in their countries. We particularly seek applications from the following countries: Colombia, Ghana, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Senegal, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Thailand, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Uruguay, and Vietnam. Women, minorities (ethnic, racial, and other), and teams of country researchers are encouraged to apply. We will cover the travel and accommodation costs of successful applicants.

We encourage economists in academia, research institutions, government, and civil society organizations to apply. The applicants must have completed at least two years of study in a graduate economics program, or have received a masters or PhD in economics. We also expect that participants have the ability to analyze data using Excel. We also consider the ability to analyze data with STATA or other similar statistical software (such as R) highly desirable. These requirements may be waived under exceptional circumstances. The program will be conducted in English; therefore, applicants are expected to be fluent in written and spoken English.

The course has three components. The self-study module of the course will require the students to complete a set of assigned readings before they arrive at the Levy Institute. These readings will help the students acquaint themselves with the conceptual and technical aspects of the material to be covered in the course. The second component of the course is the set of lectures and hands-on training to be conducted at the Levy Institute. There will be some degree of overlap between the readings for the self-study module and the readings assigned for the lectures. The goal of the lectures is to deepen the participants’ understanding regarding the topics discussed in the self-study module and introduce the participants to recent research in gender-aware economic analysis with a focus on policy issues. We will also provide hands-on training in developing participants’ the modeling skills, including training in analysis using packages such as STATA. Finally, the mentoring component of the course will enable the participant to make progress toward formulating a research project along with other participants and mentors.

The deadline for applications is March 8, 2020. Interested applicants should complete the online application form and submit the required materials via this link on Google forms. We will communicate the decision on participation before March 30, 2020. If you have issues with online submission or require further information regarding the course, please contact Kathleen Mullaly (

This course is organized by Maria Floro, Professor, Department of Economics, American University and Care Work and the Economy (CWE-GAM) Principal Investigator; Paula Herrera Idárraga, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Economics, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana; Thomas Masterson, Research Scholar and Director of Applied Micromodeling, Levy Institute; Ana Maria Tribin, Senior Researcher, Central Bank, Colombia; and Ajit Zacharias, Senior Scholar and Program Director, Distribution of Income and Wealth program, Levy Institute.

The course is made possible by the generous support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.