Opening Remarks by Mr. Monwar Hossain, Deputy Permanent Representative at Bangladesh Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York at the HLPF Side event on “Overcoming Social Barriers in the Care Economy for an Inclusive and Resilient Recovery: Growth that Supports Everyone”, 13 July 2021

I thank you, Madam Moderator, for giving me the floor.

We are happy to join Canada, Viet Nam  and UN Women to host this Meeting today.

I thank Minister Hussen, Vice Minister Phuong, Deputy Executive Director Bhatia for their excellent remarks.

Excellencies, Colleagues,

Women share disproportionate burden of both paid and unpaid work of the global care economy. The SDG 5.4 sets an ambitious target to value unpaid care and domestic work as well as to promote shared responsibility between men and women within the household. However, the progress to achieve this target has been slow. The SG’s report on SDGs progress 2021 reveals that women spend about 2.5 times more hours on unpaid care work than men on an average day. And according to ILO, the value of this unpaid work is as high as US$11 trillion.  Yet, the rights and priorities of unpaid caregivers are often neglected.  Ms. Bhatia has already shared some more specific data to highlight the scale and gravity of the issue.

In Bangladesh, the care economy is making significant progress. Despite the pandemic, we could achieve 2020 milestone of SDG 5.4 well in advance. But the challenges of ensuring gender balance and valuing unpaid work are quite daunting. The COVID-19 pandemic has had adverse impacts in these areas. To overcome those, specific stimulus packages have been rolled out to enhance social safety net, health care services, care facilities for disabled children and elderly persons etc.

Excellencies, Colleagues,

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many gaps of care economy and its undervalued aspects.  It has also provided us a unique opportunity to harness the untapped potentials of this sector to stimulate an inclusive and resilient recovery.

Let me share some specific thoughts in this regard:

First, the care economy can be utilized to foster women’s economic empowerment by promoting transformation of gender roles.

There should be a whole of society approach to ensure appropriate recognition of both paid and unpaid care work by women. And they should be given equal opportunities to participate in the relevant policy and decision-making process. The UN has an important role in this regard.

Second, we must pursue an ambitious agenda to integrate the unpaid care services into the formal economy to accelerate socio-economic progress.

If Governments and private sector invest in comprehensive care systems, this will have multiplier effects in growth and development of interlinked sectors such as robust health and social protection system, education, training, and capacity building etc.

Third, the care economy should not be considered in silos of domestic market only. The global care economy is on high demand for skilled professionals. It can, therefore, drive economic growth by creating jobs and encouraging skilled migration, especially  from developing countries.

Caregiving is a skilled and professional work.  The National Governments should, therefore, ensure adequate investment in institutional capacities and human resources development. There must be adequate focus on creation of professional institutions, skilled workforce, and appropriate structure for compensations.  I cannot agree more with Minister Hussein’s proposal to invest more in early learning of childcare system.

Fourth, creating safe and decent working condition is essential for making the future care economy sustainable and resilient.

A case in point is the migrant domestic workers who often suffer from discriminatory practices and abuses in their workplace. Integrating them in the national care policy and ensuring that their rights and dignity are vital for building a sustainable care economy for all.

Finally,  I could not agree more with Ms. Bhatia in her emphasis on evidence-based policy decision, which will require more work on disaggregated data. This will be critical in adopting targeted policy measures to address deeply entrenched gender and social norms in our societies.

I would rest it here.

I thank you all.