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Essity Hygiene and Health Report 2023–2024: Making Invisible Work Visible and Valued

Advancing Health and Well-being: The Care Economy

Essity Hygiene and Health Report 2023–2024: Making Invisible Work Visible and Valued

Advancing Health and Well-being: The Care Economy

Published 11-07-23

Submitted by Essity

Originally published on

Making invisible work visible and valued

"The care economy is a huge potential employment generator. It is crucial to invest in decent jobs in the care economy, decent jobs that create value for society."

Chidi King, Chief of the Gender, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Branch at the ILO

A major societal challenge in the care economy is that there are areas where work often goes unnoticed and undervalued. Yet these invisible contributions are the backbone of our communities and economies.

Contributing to making invisible work visible and valued is key to accelerating equity in health and well-being, for individuals as for society. This includes driving approaches that recognize, empower, and value people providing care - both professionally and within a family, in the great variety of caregiving roles. Next to caregivers, it also includes recognizing the value of work provided by cleaning staff and facility managers and enabling access to innovative solutions that strengthen these professions. By bringing the often-hidden roles within the care economy into focus, we recognize the immense effort and skill that is required to perform them. By doing so, we can move towards a more inclusive and resilient society that honors the diverse range of work performed within the care economy and that creates value for economies and societies.

Valuing and recognizing care, expanding care infrastructure with smart and value creating solutions, as well as rebalancing care work responsibilities contributes to economic growth and therefore also to SDG 8: Decent work. A stand-out factor that is common to all types of care work is that women are overrepresented in care-giving roles.

SDG 8. Decent work and economic growth. Recognizing and valuing care as a vital sector of the economy, expanding care infrastructure, and rebalancing paid and unpaid work responsibilities can contribute to economic growth, and therefore SDG 8.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has developed a gender-responsive and rights-based approach to public policy in the care economy, the so called 5R framework. This stands for recognize, reduce, redistribute, and reward unpaid work and guarantee care workers’ representation. The framework contains several policy measures that are designed to create “a virtuous circle mitigating care-related inequalities, addressing the barriers preventing women from entering paid work and improving the conditions of unpaid caregivers and care workers and, by extension, of those cared for.”1

The ILO estimates that more than 16 billion hours (about 1,800,000 years) are spent on unpaid care work every day across the globe, corresponding to approximately 9% of GDP globally.2 According to UN Women, this figure can be as high as 39% in certain countries. Recognizing the value of care and the needs within this sector, structural as well as individual, could help facilitate further investments, which would have long term benefits for society as a whole.

The total value of unpaid care work is estimated to be up to 39% of GDP in certain countries.3

The crucial role of family carers

Family caregivers are a vital part of the health care system. They often need to balance or choose between caregiving responsibilities and other obligations, primarily their paid jobs. While the frequency and intensity of the caregivers’ responsibilities differ, support is often limited or not available. A distinct trend of so called “refamilialization” of the care economy is taking place, where the responsibility of care required from family members increases. This is in part due to an increase in the number of comorbidities as we live longer, along with an increase in the need for home care. Re-familialization accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic, as overloaded healthcare systems led to an increased need for informal care. There are now concerns that this increase has been normalized. Without adequate support in place for caregivers, this becomes a paramount challenge with a range of consequences for caregivers, care receivers, and for society at large.

Caring for one’s loved ones often provides joy and self-satisfaction, yet it is also well documented that a family carers’ physical and mental health is affected the responsibility of taking care of a relative.4

Working family caregivers often experience stress and guilt about having to leave their jobs even temporarily to take care of relatives. Many family caregivers take on jobs that are below their level of education or experience to work fewer or more flexible hours. Family caregivers run a bigger risk of leaving their jobs in the paid economy. Once the need for caregiving is over, it is often challenging to re-enter the labor market.27 In the paid care economy, a large portion of jobs are considered low status, with low pays and limited social protection or benefits. Often, they are also physically and/or psychologically demanding.5

Increased societal awareness of family caregiving could make it easier for caregivers to reach out for the support, education, and training available. This would in turn help family carers to find the right balance between providing care and other activities.

Download the Essity 2023-2024 Hygiene and Health Report to learn more

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1ILO (2018) Care Work and Care Jobs: For the Future of Decent Work. m/---publ/documents/publication/wcms_633166.pdf

2ILO (2018) Care Work and Care Jobs: For the Future of Decent Work. m/---publ/documents/publication/wcms_633166.pdf

ILO (2018) Care work and care jobs for the future of decent work. publ/documents/publication/wcms_633135.pdf

UN Women (2018) Promoting women’s economic empowerment: recognizing and investing in the care economy. https://www.unwomen. org/sites/default/files/Headquarters/Attachments/Sections/Library/Publications/2018/Issue-paper-Recognizing-and-investing-in-the- care-economy-en.pdf

ILO (2018) Care work and care jobs for the future of decent work. publ/documents/publication/wcms_633135.pdf

3UN Women (n.d.) Redistribute unpaid work

4Pinquart, M. & Sorensen, S. (2003). Differences between caregivers and noncaregivers in psychological health and physical health: A meta-analysis. Psychology and Aging, 18(2), 250-267.

5Spann, A., Vicente, J., Allard, C., Hawley, M., Spreeuwenberg, M., et al. (2020). Challenges of combining work and unpaid care, and solu- tions: A scoping review. Health & Social Care in the Community. 28 (3). 699-715.

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Essity is a leading global hygiene and health company that develops, produces and sells Personal Care (Baby Care, Feminine Care, Incontinence Products and Medical Solutions), Consumer Tissue and Professional Hygiene products and solutions. 

Our vision is; Dedicated to improving well-being through leading hygiene and health solutions. The name Essity stems from the words essentials and necessities. Sales are conducted in approximately 150 countries under many strong brands, including the leading global brands TENA and Tork, and other brands, such as Leukoplast, Libero, Libresse, Lotus, Nosotras, Saba, Tempo, Vinda and Zewa. Essity has about 48,000 employees and net sales in 2017 amounted to approximately 12.8 bn USD (SEK 109bn, EUR 11.3bn). The business operations are based on a sustainable business model with focus on value creation for people and nature.

The company has its headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, and is listed on Nasdaq Stockholm. Essity used to be part of the SCA Group.

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Tork is a brand of Essity. Essity is a leading global hygiene and health company that develops personal care, professional hygiene and consumer tissue products and solutions. Essity offers Tork paper towels, toilet paper, skin care products, facial tissue,  wipers, wet wipes, napkins and other hygiene products for washrooms, wash stations, healthcare areas, food and beverage handling, food preparation, manufacturing and maintenance. For more information, visit

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