Women's economic empowerment and care economies and policies - ESCWA
27-28 June 2022

Women's economic empowerment and care economies and policies

  • UN-House, Beirut

ESCWA, in partnership with the League of Arab States and UN Women, is organizing a regional meeting to strengthen the capacity of the Subcommittee on Gender Equality regarding women's economic empowerment and care economies and policies.

This meeting draws lessons from how gender equality was integrated in COVID-19 national response plans in the Arab region, with a particular focus on care-related issues and policies. It also provides tools and examples from some Arab States on approaches to examining the situation of care at the national level and identifying necessary changes. Through training activities, sessions aim to enhance participants' capacities to formulate necessary changes at legal and policy levels and advance care services.

The meeting brings together members of the Subcommittee on Gender Equality with representatives from ministries of labour and national social protection institutions.

Outcome document

  • Despite the numerous positive and encouraging initiatives and measures implemented across the region following COVID-19 crisis, limited attention has been given to the specific needs of women and girls and the issues they face, particularly in light of the limited number of measures targeting them.
  • Unless women’s issues and needs are explicitly catered for in crises response plans, with specific measures targeting them, they will not be able to benefit from recovery efforts and investments.
  • Unless women are included in formal institutional mechanisms and structures, it will be challenging to target them effectively in responses to future crises
  • Transformative care policies, including care services, labor policies, care infrastructure and social protection, must be advanced to further enhance the care economy and ensure women’s economic empowerment.
  • Arab States have already worked on reforming several legal frameworks namely labor laws in what relates to leaves and flexible work arrangements. However, there are still numerous gaps that need to be addressed
  • Numerous experiences related to care economy are developing in the region and consist of promising practices to be disseminated and shared with all countries for contemplation.

The first session examined the integration of gender equality into response plans, as the presentations provided by UNESCWA, the League of Arab States and UNWOMEN focused on the situation of women in the Arab region during the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to the challenges they faced and how they were addressed. The presentations shed light on the lessons learned and recommendations to be followed and adopted in response plans for future crises. The session included interventions on experiences from the region in adopting necessary measures to mitigate the consequences of the crisis.



A proposed approach developed by UNESCWA was presented and discussed as well as some of the tools available to analyze and understand the care situation at the national level to determine priorities and necessary changes.

This session paved the way for the presentation of the case studies from three countries developed following this approach and using some of the tools made available in this context.


The third session was dedicated to presenting the case studies developed in three Arab countries revolving on the importance of the role of care in promoting women's economic participation.

A case study on women's economic empowerment and childcare in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia highlighted the importance of the adoption of Vision 2030. This latest, as it focuses on creating job opportunities for women, helped in re-shaping the concept of "children's care and hospitality". Providing institutional care to children from zero to 6 years old in a safe place was instrumental in removing a major barrier facing women’s economic participation and creating jobs opportunities for women in the paid care sector.

The case study on women’s economic empowerment and childcare economy in Lebanon highlighted the importance of childcare in promoting women's economic participation, economic growth, family prosperity and the healthy development of children, as the first three years of a child's life are instrumental for his health and capacity development. It shed light on the care legal related frameworks and the remaining gaps to be addressed, the characteristics of the services provided by both private and public sectors, the role played by employees as well as the opinions of parents benefiting from the services in the private sector.

A study in the Sultanate of Oman focusing on women’s economic empowerment and the care provided to persons with disabilities was also presented. This case study provided a comprehensive picture of the situation of persons with disabilities in the country and highlighted the legal frameworks related to care provided to them as well as the services available in the country to support them and their families.

Experiences from the three countries were shared with all participants. The three case studies brought forward a set of recommendations that were discussed.

With the development of the fourth industrial revolution and since the skills of can become obsolete over time and with the considerable changes witnessed in the job markets, upskilling and reskilling programs can refresh human capital knowledge, and increase employability for all but especially older employees who have less chance of not finding a job after layoff.

The presentation sheds light of the importance of accompanying the fourth industrial revolution in what relates to foreseen needed skills and concludes that unlike global trends, the Arab region has failed to attract many jobs that require future work skills. If this trend persists, the Arab region may once again be missing the opportunity for a successful structural transformation by sticking to traditional sectors and subsectors where labour substitution may be on the rise, thus resulting in structural unemployment.

Working group discussions were conducted as countries were divided into groups to further discuss issues related to care policies.

Axis 1: Changes related to legal and policy frameworks

Axis 2: Changes related to the provision of care services

Axis 3: Changes related to social protection frameworks

Axis 4: Changes related to infrastructure.

For every axis, participants presented and discussed main practices from various countries, the major stakeholders to be involved in future reforms and changes and the challenges faced to advance care economy and policies.

With regard to legal and policy frameworks related to care, participants agreed on the importance of designing, enacting and monitoring labor laws, regulations and systems, including those related to leaves and benefits. They stressed the importance of addressing unpaid care under the social protection systems.

Regarding the changes related to the provision of care services, participants highlighted the importance of designing and enacting laws, policies, regulations and standards related to the establishment of appropriate care services at all levels.

With regard to changes related to social protection frameworks, the participants discussed the importance of implementing social protection measures and programs that guarantee the well-being and dignity of all including care givers.

The main challenges related to infrastructure were also discussed. There are significant differences between rural and urban areas and between income groups with regard to access to water, fuel, sanitation and basic services. Funding is a challenge as many households do not have the financial capacity to pay for basic infrastructure such as access to water and sanitation. Furthermore, infrastructure projects require significant governmental investments.

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