Symposium 8: Gender Equality and Unpaid Care in the Pandemic: Opportunities for Transformation

Convenor: Dr Michele Hilton Boon, Centre for Economic Justice, Glasgow Caledonian University

This symposium will present new research on unpaid care and inequalities in the context of the unprecedented increase in demand for such care during the pandemic. The topic relates to the conference theme of the transformation of care in a crisis context by considering how the gendered division of household care labour changed during the pandemic, and how people’s experiences were shaped by social class, ethnicity, and place. Understanding these changes has significant implications for current policy and the response to future crises

Dr Michele Hilton Boon (Ailsa McKay Postdoctoral Fellow, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK) will present findings from a mixed-methods synthesis and meta-analysis on the impacts of Covid lockdowns on the gender gap in unpaid care in 16 countries. This paper will show that, while the time men spent on unpaid caring increased, women’s did as well, leaving the pre-existing gender gap in time and satisfaction largely intact. However, redefining of family roles did occur, challenging and contradicting persistent gender ideologies. 

İtibar Aydemir-Uslu (PhD researcher, Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy) will present how women’s unpaid care work has been shaped by the cultural, legal and socio-economic structure and policy interventions in Turkey and Italy and its implications for future policy. The comparative case study method will provide an understanding of the role of these factors and how inadequate resource allocation of governments to social welfare, including care, exacerbates women’s care burden in different contexts.

Katy Gillespie (PhD researcher, Wise Centre for Economic Justice, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK) will present findings from qualitative interviews with heterosexual couples in Scotland, exploring how potential pandemic-induced shifts have influenced the intrahousehold divisions of unpaid care roles and domestic labour tasks. During the pandemic, some men have increased their share of this work. However, these changes may be temporary and reversible. Capturing both sexes’ lived experiences of these alterations will support changes in the gendered organisation of work and family life.

Dr Nina Teasdale (Research Fellow, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK) will present on the policy implications stemming from research into gender and unpaid care. During the Covid-19 crisis, care work (child, adult and elderly) intensified and had to be reconciled simultaneously with paid employment, providing an opportunity for potential shifts in gender roles. This paper considers how policy might be harnessed to facilitate ‘deeper’ shifts in attitudes and social norms to support longer-term changes in the gendered organisation of care work.


Professor Sara Cantillon, Centre for Economic Justice, Glasgow Caledonian University

Associate Professor Elena Moore, Department of Sociology, University of Cape Town