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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

14 October 2021


Your Excellency Mr. Ekkaphab Phanthavong, Deputy Secretary-General for the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations,

Your Excellency Ibu I Gusti Ayu Bintang Darmawati, Minister of Women Empowerment and Child Protection of Indonesia and Incoming Chair of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Women,

Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my distinct pleasure to join you today, at the launch event for the ASEAN- ESCAP joint report on Addressing Unpaid Care and Domestic Work in ASEAN.

Unpaid care work is mainly performed by women and girls due to many factors, including social and cultural norms. From early on in their lives, the gendered nature and unequal burden of care and domestic work limit the opportunities of women and girls and their access to quality education, economic security and decent work.

Although care work has traditionally been valued for its contribution to the wellbeing of individuals, family and society, it remains largely unrecognized as an important factor that can contribute to sustainable economic growth and the wellbeing of our societies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the risks and vulnerabilities for women and girls in Asia and the Pacific all the while women have played key roles in the pandemic response: As frontline health care workers as well as at home.

Many of the hard-fought gains over the past decades have been reversed and existing inequalities further deepened. That is why placing women and girls at the centre is one of the key areas of action that member States have identified that can and must be addressed through reinvigorated multilateralism, as outlined by the United Nations Secretary-General in his report “Our Common Agenda.

While governments are striving to build back stronger and more resilient economies and societies, the few gender-responsive and care-sensitive measures that have been instituted may be short-lived and at risk of being rolled back or undone once the crisis eases.

We have taken the first essential step on the journey towards greater equality by recognizing unpaid care and domestic work and its invaluable contribution to the functioning of our societies and economies. But we must work to further understand and better measure and enumerate unpaid care and domestic work to make these contributions clear and visible.

First and foremost, governments must seize this opportunity to invest in the care economy, with a view to recognizing, redistributing and reducing unpaid care and domestic work. Such investment will not only relieve the care burden, but also generate decent employment and increase the resilience and long-term growth of economies.

Second, national level coordination on the care economy is essential for a whole-of-government approach, including inter-ministerial coordination to harmonize existing legislation and practice toward the reduction and redistribution of unpaid care work.

Third, labour market regulations and social protection measures are required to redistribute unpaid work and foster work-life balance.

And finally, unpaid care work can no longer be invisible. It should be included in national statistics and data analysis.

I look forward to following ASEAN countries on their accelerated journey towards the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

And I hope that this report will contribute to sustaining the momentum that has been created by an understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to address and improve the conditions for women and girls at home and in the workplace.

Together, we must build back better for all women and girls.

I deeply appreciate your continued trust and commitment in our partnership.

Thank you very much.

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