Women and Unpaid Carework

Rapid Care Work Analysis in Nairobi Informal Settlements

Rose Wasiaya, 39, at her chapatti business in Korogocho, an informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo Credit: Katie G. Nelson/Oxfam
Paper publication date: 
Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Care work study was part of a four year broad programme funded by the European Union and spearheaded by Oxfam in partnership with SITE Enterprise Promotion, National Organization of Peer Educators (NOPE) and Youth Alive! Kenya (YAK!). The study targeted 10,000 women domestic workers and 20,000 women small scale traders in the five informal settlements of Nairobi City County namely Mukuru, Kibera, Korogocho, Mathare and Kawangware. The focus for care work project was on promoting women’s economic empowerment by influencing recognition of the economic value of care work and influencing uptake of innovations and social services that can create more time for women to engage in economic activities.


With regard to time spent on care work, disaggregated data shows that male domestic workers spent an average of 35 hours a week in paid work, while female domestic workers spent an average of 15 hours. Male domestic workers spent 41 hours per week doing unpaid care work compared to females who spent 77.8 hours weekly on average. Further, male small-scale traders spent 1.5 times more a week in paid work compared to their female counterparts (average being 25.2 hours versus 13.4 hours respectively). A large difference was observed when hours spent doing unpaid care work by male small scale traders was compared to that of women small scale traders with women spending 2.3 times (29.2 versus 65.2 hours) more hours in unpaid care work compared to their male counterparts, implying that even when women are engaged in small scale trade, they still spend most of their time in care work which in this case far out ways that which men spend in paid labour/services (65 hours versus 21 hours). Notably, female domestic workers spent slightly more time (77.8 hours) on unpaid care work compared to female small scale traders who spent 65.2 hours on average.


The study makes recommendations for the recognition, reduction and re-distribution of care work through the following interventions: provision of free maternal and child health services, access to safe, clean water for slum households, access to cooking energy (electric, charcoal, paraffin and fire wood), road networks to ease access to basic services that reduce burden of care work,, provision of care and support of the special children/physically challenged, terminally and other ill persons and the elderly, support systems for care of infants and young children to reduce risk of disease infections especially communicable diseases, environmental safety to rid the areas of poor drainage and unchecked waste disposal. Equally important is the change of negative attitudes pertaining to care work and women empowerment. The study also observed that in order for sustainable efforts and programmes for recognition, reduction and re-distribution of care work, existing legislation and structures that support human rights, women empowerment, poverty reduction, provision of pro-poor services and effective participation of citizens for accountability is very important. This can be achieved by implementing Chapter 4 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the Kenya Vision 2030, domestication of the international instruments on women’s rights, the Kenya Slum Upgrading Project and the National Youth Service Programme. The study further noted that the success of recognition, reduction and re-distribution of care work will require the cooperation of duty bearers such as the National and County governments, development organizations and communities.