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Gender Interviews

The care crisis and women bearing its weight

The cause of this crisis and how we can end it with a focus on public collective accountability

Interview with Emma Dowling

University of Vienna

By October 2021February 13th, 2023No Comments
Photo by Claudio Colotti

In 2015 there were roughly 2,1 billion people in need of care on the planet and they are expected to become 2.3 billions by 2030 [1]. Talking about the care crisis means looking at the existing gap between health needs and the available resources to meet them. “As care is turning more and more into some sort of good”, explains Emma Dowling in her book, ‘The care crisis’, “access to care is depending increasingly more on how much you can pay”.
The changes that transformed the welfare system in Europe and North America contributed to make access to care much harder for many citizens. The welfare cuts were accompanied by intense hype aimed at emphasising the importance of citizens’ engagement in their care, which was viewed as a determining factor for independence and individual autonomy. In practice, citizens’ empowerment results in a reduced impact of the less present social-healthcare system and in families bearing the weight of care.
Providing care to those who need it is an invisible job, mostly carried out by women; it is underpaid or often done for free. The time spent doing unpaid work is 3.3 times higher for women compared to men [2]. This type of work benefits governments that hide behind a sort of welfare mix, that offer of a range of services no longer- or not really- guaranteed by the institutions but by individuals- women (we should stress that)- and volunteers. It is a triple privatisation, explains Dowling.
Restoring the value of care is a prelude to a transformation process. It means investing more in social-healthcare services, acknowledging the value of the care provided and putting women at the centre. It means restoring the value of the term “we”, not meant as a plural subject with no social conflicts but rather one that emphasises the need for a type of inclusive solidarity that is able to transform the existing one.


[1] International labour organisation. Care work and care jobs for the future of decent work. Geneva: ILO, 2018.
[2] Sammam E, Presler-Marshal E, Jones N, et al. Women’s work: mothers, women, and childcare crisis. London: Overseas Development Institute, 2016.

The interview with Emma Dowling was published under the heading “Care crisis. What caused it and how can we end it?”in engagée magazine (