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Who cares about older women's work?

This briefing paper seeks to raise awareness of the critical but invisible work that older women do - paid and unpaid - in developing country contexts. Because #OlderWomenMatter


Using original research conducted for Age International by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), this paper makes clear how gender norms and inequalities intersect with poverty, public health issues and human rights to drive older women to do paid and unpaid work that negatively affects their wellbeing – while their families, communities and economies depend heavily on the work they do.

Key highlights 

  1. 1 in 7 older women are in the workforce, in low and middle-income countries  
  2. Older women do more than twice the amount of unpaid care that older men do
  3. Older women do unpaid - often undesirable work - that few others are willing to. Yet this work is not counted in economic and labour data, rendering older women’s work invisible.
  4. Inequalities women face in society can continue into older age and be aggravated by age discrimination - making their lives worse, while they are helping others.
  5. Older women can benefit from doing different types of paid and unpaid work - provided the work is a choice and they have the right support.

Case studies 

Our recommendations for policymakers

  1. Recognise, support and value the contribution that older women make to their families, communities and economies with paid and unpaid work.

  2. Raise awareness and help create policy to serve the specific health needs of older women who work in developing countries.
  3. Ensure that the UK Government’s implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Target 5.4 on unpaid care fully recognises older women’s unpaid care and domestic work and provides older women with necessary support.  
  4. Acknowledge and include data on older women and men as part of UK Government's reporting to Parliament and the UN on its implementation of the SDGs.

In conclusion 

As a result of this briefing paper, we hope the UK Government and other international development actors will fully integrate older women into their policy discussions, planning and programme responses to the SDG agenda for women’s economic empowerment.

Crucially, we want governments, UN agencies and other civil society organisations to support older women to realise their aspirations and to have the power to make their own choices regarding their right to work, paid or unpaid, and their right not to work.

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Last updated: Nov 20 2018

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