Promoting Recognition of Care Work in Indonesia

10 February 2023

A gender-responsive social insurance for employment is paramount to reduce the risks of poverty and vulnerabilities. To develop policies on such a social security, a recognition for care work, both paid and unpaid, is called for as an initial step. Unpaid care work hinders women to participate in labor market, obtain decent works, and access to social insurance for employment.


ILO (2018) classifies care work into two types, i.e., direct care work and indirect care work. Direct care work refers to the care that involves personal contact, among others feeding babies, caring for sick couples, nursing the elderly people, or assisting children in learning. Whereas indirect care work comprises activities such as cleaning the house, cooking, or washing clothes. Both are related to one another despite oftentimes overlap. 

Care work may be paid or unpaid. Unpaid care work usually takes place in households and most of the time performed by women. The gender norms in Indonesian society “require” women to give priority to unpaid household care work. This then widens the gender gap in the labor force participation rate. On the other hand, paid care workers are often underpaid without any social insurance coverage, domestic workers for instance.

Unpaid care workers are the vulnerable group in the social insurance for employment program. Law Number 40 of 2004 on the National Social Security System and its derivative define workers as “individuals who work and earn wages, salaries, or any other compensations in return.” Whereas the participants of the social insurance for employment refer to “everyone, including foreigners, who have worked for at least 6 months in Indonesia and have paid the contribution.”

In Indonesia, unpaid care work is not considered a productive activity as it does not generate income (salary/wage/compensation). Thus, women leaving their job for care work are unqualified to be the participants of the social insurance for employment program. The data from BPJS Ketenagakerjaan in 2020 indicates low participation of women, i.e. 7.8 million people, which accounts for only 35 percent of the social insurance for employment program's total active participants.

There is a gender gap where women as the head of household with elderly and disabled dependents assume more care workload compared to men, especially in rural areas. In those regions, the number of females headed household with elderly dependents (65 years old and above) is higher than the equivalent male, that is 4.5 percent to 3.2 percent. Similarly, there are far more female-headed households with disability dependents, which add up to 12.5 percent, in comparison with the equivalent male that amounts to 9.8 percent. The heaviest unpaid care workload is borne by women with toddlers, whereas the lightest one by women caring for disability dependents.

In relation to social insurance for employment program for workers with disabilities, only 4.8 percent of this group is covered by at least Work Injury Compensation Insurance (JKK) And Survivor’s Benefit Insurance (JKM). Women participation in this program is lower than men, respectively 4.0 percent and 5.4 percent. In terms of gender gap and old-age vulnerability, there are more working elderly women than working elderly men, indicating the higher vulnerability of the former.


Strengthening Gender-Responsive Policies

After analyzing the results and mapping the need for gender-responsive social insurance for employment program, the following matters are considered imperative. To improve female labor force participation rate, it is necessary to provide both formal and informal workers with inclusive day care services, including for children with disabilities; Parental (maternity and paternity) leave should also be included in the social insurance for employment system. Lastly, unpaid care work needs to be included in the social insurance scheme. 

The social insurance for employment program needs to accommodate as well casual labors and non-fixed income, specifically for women with informal employment. Alternatively, the scope of social insurance for employment program could be expanded for informal workers, including unpaid care workers.

For women with toddlers that endure an intense care workload, other than day care services, men's participation will be helpful for them in such a line of work. Nevertheless, care work also needs to be acknowledged as a productive work.

Whereas elderlies and people with disabilities, both men and women, who work in informal sector with minimum wages will benefit from disability-friendly workplaces. In addition, the coverage of old-age savings and pension insurance, as well as the age limit of the social insurance for employment participants, need to be extended.

To fulfilled those requirements, a dialog is called for to discuss gender-responsive policies and social insurance for employment (as part of social protection) by taking into account care work and diverse risks and needs of different genders. Furthermore, a time-use survey is suggested to be conducted regularly in Indonesia to comprehend the extent of unpaid care work carried out by both men and women.