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Who Cares?

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Aatif Somji

5. Conclusion

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1This thesis aims to assess whether unpaid care and domestic work is a significant constraint to female microenterprise development. The research question was motivated by economic studies documenting gender gaps in returns to capital within the microenterprise context. These studies appear to demonstrate limited awareness of how unpaid work could be influencing gender gaps – which is the unique contribution of this research to the literature on the topic. Primary field research was carried out in Luwero District, Uganda, to investigate this question through a combination of quantitative and qualitative data.

2Analysis of this data suggests that unpaid care and domestic work is a significant constraint to female microenterprise development. Three key findings illustrate this. Firstly, the unpaid care and domestic responsibilities of the female micro-entrepreneurs are considerable. Women generally dedicate between five and six hours to unpaid work on a regular working day. More than eighty per cent of them either temporarily pause their paid work to carry out unpaid work, or do both simultaneously. Secondly, unpaid care and domestic responsibilities are identified by the women as a constraint to enterprise development. Almost half of them explicitly consider their unpaid work to be a significant barrier to growing their business. Finally, unpaid care and domestic work is overwhelmingly done by females. Close to ninety per cent of all unremunerated tasks are carried out by women and girls.

3Three broad implications can be drawn from the findings of this study regarding gender and microenterprise development:

4First, unpaid work is likely to be an important determinant of business outcomes. It is therefore critical to have a greater awareness of what unpaid work is and the mechanisms through which it affects these business outcomes. Unpaid work should be accurately measured through time-use surveys – establishing how much unpaid work is being carried out and by whom. This data could then inform gender-sensitive policies to promote inclusive labour markets.

5Second, policies to reduce unpaid work could improve business outcomes for women. Investment in time-saving social and physical infrastructure would free up significantly more time for women, which they could dedicate to paid work. Further research investigating the causal effect of different public services and infrastructure on women’s time and business outcomes would help to establish which of these are most effective in this regard.

6Third, greater gender equality in unpaid work could lead to greater gender equality in business outcomes. Addressing social norms on gender and unpaid work could encourage greater participation of men and boys in care and domestic responsibilities. This redistribution of unpaid work could in turn narrow gender gaps in returns to capital and other business outcomes. Evidence on what works best to shift these social norms would provide a starting point for testing the effect of these interventions on men and women’s time and labour market outcomes.

7Unpaid care and domestic work is a social good essential for the provisioning of human life. This thesis makes visible the fundamental contribution of unpaid work to society, confirms its gendered distribution and suggests that this could be contributing to gender gaps in labour market outcomes within the microenterprise context. Concrete steps to address this – through recognising, reducing and redistributing unpaid work – could provide a more equal opportunity for female entrepreneurs to fulfil their economic potential.

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