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Vientiane - 28 Jul 2023

News Number: PI/13/2023

Parricipants at Regional Forum on Care Work in ASEAN countries

Photo credit: Oxfam/Vanida Souvannavong

Women and girls in Asia and the Pacific spend a disproportionate amount of time on unpaid care and domestic work – four times more than men. This gendered division of labour limits their opportunities for education, work, and participation in public life. Despite ASEAN’s commitment to achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls by 2030, challenges persist to the effective implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Framework on Care Economy.

The Regional Forum on Care Work in ASEAN Countries, held from 27 to 28 July in Vientiane, shed light on the undervalued but essential work carried out by caregivers and emphasized the need for increased investment and recognition in this sector. The forum was jointly organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW), Oxfam and the ASEAN Secretariat.

Bringing together participants from across all ten ASEAN member-states, regional organizations, the private sector and technical experts, the forum represented a significant stride towards advancing gender equality and promoting sustainable development, delving into gender-responsive and care-sensitive policies and programs in the Asia-Pacific region.

“To create lasting change, we must prioritize transformative policies that recognize and redistribute the care burden equitably, without reinforcing traditional gender roles and norms. By promoting shared responsibility for caregiving among all members of society, we can pave the way for more meaningful opportunities for women to realize their full potential and empower women and girls to dream big and reach far,” said Cai Cai, Chief of Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Section, ESCAP.

“Women spend a lifetime on unpaid care and domestic work, limiting their opportunities for education, work, and active participation in public life. It's time to recognize the immense value of care work and take action to create a more equitable society where caregiving responsibilities are shared and women can fully realize their potential in all aspects of life,” said Thasphorn Butsaling, Country Director, Oxfam.

The Regional Forum covered five key objectives over the course of two days. First, it aimed to create a Comprehensive Care Policy Ecosystem by facilitating extensive discussions to design a nurturing and supportive policy environment for care work within the ASEAN region. This included exploring care infrastructure and services, social protection policies, and care-related employment strategies.

Second, the forum focused on enhancing the well-being of care workers and caregivers, aiming to foster an ecosystem that supports their professional growth and personal development.

Third, it sought to safeguard and promote the care workforce by recognizing their indispensable role and addressing key considerations to ensure their rights and promote gender equality. This involved addressing issues such as fair compensation, decent working conditions, and the need to reduce gender disparities within the care sector.

The forum further explored challenges in Maternity Protection, with a core focus on comprehensive support for working mothers through maternity protection and childcare policies.

Finally, the forum advanced Evidence-based Care Strategies by encouraging the sharing of best practices and facilitating knowledge exchange. The emphasis was on identifying innovative approaches and evidence-based strategies for fostering sustainable care systems in ASEAN countries, with a focus on building inclusive, resilient, and equitable care frameworks.

To work towards this vision, the Regional Forum called for enhanced collaboration and partnership among ASEAN member states and stakeholders to facilitate the establishment of a robust and sustainable care sector.

"Fostering partnerships and synergies is vital in addressing unpaid care and domestic work, ensuring the well-being and empowerment of women and communities. By working together, we can create a more equitable and sustainable future for all," underscored Thamma Phetvixay, ACW Chair and Vice President of Laos Women’s Union. 

Recommendations from the Forum were shared for the consideration of Indonesia as the 2023 ASEAN Chair and Lao PDR as the incoming 2024 ASEAN Chair.

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