Care Economy in the Indian G20 Presidency

Bhupendra Shandilya

As India assumed the presidency of the G20 in December 2022, it embarked on a significant journey with the responsibility of guiding the global economic agenda. In a world grappling with multifaceted challenges, one of the standout priorities of India’s presidency has been the promotion of “women led development.”

The G20 Summit presidency was handed over to India on December 1, 2022, following the previous summit held in Bali, Indonesia. India embraced this opportunity with a positive outlook and adopted, “वसुदैव कुटुंबकम,” which translates to “One Earth-One Family,” as the theme for the G20 Indian Presidency. During the Indian Presidency, G20 programs were organized into three main workstreams: the Sherpa track, the finance track, and engagement groups.

The engagement groups consisted of non-governmental participants from each G20 member country, and within the workstreams, 13 engagement groups focused on various themes and issue areas. For instance, the T20 brought together think tanks and high-level experts to discuss relevant international socioeconomic issues, the B20 worked on stimulating the views of global business leaders, the C20 provided a platform for civil society organizations to voice their concerns, and the L20 addressed the situation of labour and the global workforce.

Each engagement group also had several working groups dedicated to specific topics. For instance, under the C20 engagement group during the Indian presidency, 16 working groups conducted various programs related to their respective topics and prepared policy packs. Before the G20 Summit in Delhi, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) organized a ministerial conference on Women’s Empowerment at Gandhinagar. The National Forum for Creches and Childcare Services (FORCES) used this opportunity and successfully joined hands with UN Women to add one session in the side event on the care economy.

The side event in Gandhi Nagar was titled “Beyond 2025: Three Bold G20 Gender Equality Action Areas.” During this event, national and international experts discussed the care economy in a session named “Approaches and Recommendations for the Care Economy.” The session aimed to highlight various public policy, private enterprise, and civil society approaches to the care economy and finding solutions that reduce the burden of care work on women, enabling them to participate equally in the economy. The session was interactive and involved government representatives, policy analysts, and private sector stakeholders, facilitating a discussion about further investments and innovations required in the care economy.

Mr. Indevar Pandey, Secretary of the MWCD, Government of India, gave the opening remarks. He emphasized the need to reduce and redistribute the double burden of care work on women, along with increasing the representation and leadership of women in the economy. He discussed the Palna-National Creche scheme, which allows working mothers to drop off their children for daily childcare, freeing them to participate in economic activities. The government is also working on a framework for improving the implementation of this plan.

Ms. Sukti Dasgupta, Director of the Conditions of Work and Equality Department at the International Labour Organization (ILO), mentioned that the UN General Assembly recently declared October 29th as the International Day of Care, demonstrating global recognition of the importance of care work. She stressed that the care economy must grow not only for women’s development in the economy but also for social justice and gender equality.

Ms. Deborah Foo, Platforms Manager-Gender from the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) in Singapore, highlighted that the care economy intersects with various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as SDG-5, SDG-8, and SDG-10, and presents opportunities for women. She raised the question of whether there is enough data to develop successful policies for the care economy.

Ms. Sumitra Mishra, Executive Director of Mobile Creches, India, and Convenor of National FORCES, specifically focused on the poorest young children of women working in the informal sector as that is the target group Mobile Creches has been focusing on since 1969. She outlined the ASPIRE framework, which stands for raising awareness about childcare and recognizing it as an entitlement that can support parents in their ability to work; emphasises that services should be accessible, high-quality, and provided free of charge as an entitled public good; policies should address the intersectionality of care in the context of India as well as address the efforts of care workers, providing them with dignified working conditions; investment is needed for childcare services; regulation should be imposed on private childcare service providers because when we discuss investment, many private childcare service providers might see this sector as a profit-making business opportunity; and lastly, evidence building is essential to support policymakers in developing holistic and well-informed policies.

Ms. Bimbika Sijapati Basnett, Head of Gender Equality, Disability, and Social Inclusion at the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Economic Development (PROSPERA), highlighted that global data indicates a lack of an accessible collective ecosystem. She also pointed out that children below the age of 6 are not enrolled in primary schools. According to various categories of data, 73% of children between the ages of 5-6 are enrolled in school, while the enrolment rate for children ages 3–4 is only 21%. Additionally, she mentioned that a time-use study revealed that women spend the maximum amount of time on childcare at home.

In the G20 Ministerial Conference on Women Empowerment, the chair pledged that G20 countries will [1]:

  • Promote investment in the availability and accessibility of affordable care infrastructure while also addressing the unequal distribution of unpaid care and domestic work to facilitate the participation of all women in education in the world of work.
  • Support adequate social, educational, and care services and policies, both from the public and the private sectors, to support women in balancing their careers and family choices and encourage men to share the workload.
  • Promote engagement with grassroots women’s organizations to improve nutritional and health outcomes and early childhood care.

The G20 2023 action plan to accelerate progress on the SDGs also included the following points related to the care economy[2]:

  • Promote investment in the availability and accessibility of affordable care infrastructure, including for children, older people, and persons with disabilities to address the unequal distribution of unpaid care and domestic work to promote the participation of women in education and employment.
  • Ensure that care workers enjoy effective protection against all forms of abuse, harassment, and violence, and have collective representation, including via representative unions, considering different national contexts and circumstances.
  • Endeavour to provide capacity-building and skills training for care professionals, including those in vulnerable situations, to enhance the quality of care, to provide decent work and wages, and extend gender-responsive social protection, including adaptive approaches to social protection for care workers within public systems.
  • Improve access to safe and adequate nutrition and healthy diets, nutrition-sensitive social protection measures, including adaptive social protection measures, and formal childcare for all adolescent girls and women, including during pregnancy and breastfeeding, to combat the issues of malnutrition, undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and anaemia.

The final G-20 Summit was  organized and held in Delhi on the 9th and 10th of September 2023 at Bharat Mandapam International Exhibition-Convention Centre (IECC),  Delhi. In this Summit leaders of 20 countries participated and expressed their commitment to the G-20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration.

The global leaders also committed to encouraging women-led development that would enhance women’s participation as decision-makers in addressing global challenges and in contributing as active participants in all spheres of society, across all sectors, and at all levels of the economy. This is not only crucial for achieving gender equality, but also for contributing to global GDP growth. To this end, they agreed to promote investment in the availability and accessibility of social protection, and affordable care infrastructure to address the unequal distribution of paid and unpaid care and domestic work and to promote the continued participation of women in education and employment.[3]

 

Conclusion

India’s presidency of the G20 has shone a spotlight on the care economy, recognizing it as a pivotal element in shaping a more equitable and prosperous world. By emphasizing investments in healthcare, promoting women’s economic empowerment, and advocating for international cooperation, India has sought to nurture the care economy not only within its borders but also on a global scale. As the world grapples with complex challenges, the care economy is a path toward a brighter and more inclusive future. It is now up to the international community to build upon India’s efforts and continue fostering a care-centric approach to economic development and social progress.

 

[1] https://www.g20.org/content/dam/gtwenty/gtwenty_new/document/G20_Chair’s_Statement_Women’s_Ministerial.pdf

[2] G20 2023 Action Plan for SDGs_220623

[3] New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration Final Adoption (g20.org)

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