Who Cares? A 10-year Analysis of G20 Care Commitments

As many countries around the world prepare to celebrate Mothers’ Day weekend, including in the United States, care is at the top of many people’s minds. This theme resonates from intimate household spaces to the broad corridors of global policy. The G20 is one global policy space where, each year, inclusion of topics in Leaders’ Declarations provides a signal of the most urgent and strategic issues, sets the tone for national policy priorities, and drives broader global action and investments. Over the past decade, we know the G20 has increasingly integrated discourse and commitments related to the care economy, but to what degree, and where are we still seeing gaps? This blog digs deeper into care-related commitments in G20 Leaders’ Declarations from 2014-23, identifies trends, and evaluates the progress made and gaps that remain. This analysis also highlights the potential for Brazil to lead on these issues in its G20 presidency this year. 

A decade of care commitments  

Following a close review of the last 10 years of G20 Leaders’ Declarations, a clearer picture of G20 care economy priorities comes into focus. I limited my review to text in Leaders’ Declarations, though a deeper look at engagement group (like the Women20) and ministerial communiques and other outcome documents offers a more nuanced perspective on the discussions held over this time period. However, this high-level review gives a helpful snapshot of the care-related issues that have risen to the top and how inclusion of these issues has evolved over time.  

For the purposes of this analysis, I searched past Declarations for the mention of 12 care economy issues, ranging from labor market issues (labor force participation, gender pay gap, decent work/quality jobs), social protection, care services (with a specific look at care for certain populations – early childhood education, people with disabilities, and older people), care infrastructure (with a specific look at water and sanitation), the redistribution of unpaid or domestic work, and gender stereotypes or norms. While this list of issues does not exhaustively represent the care economy (and I welcome thoughts on additional topics that would be helpful to add), it gives a better sense of what issues have recently seen prioritization by G20 countries and where we still see gaps.  

Breakdown of Inclusion of Care-Related Issues by G20 Presidency 

Breakdown of Inclusion of Care-Related Issues by G20 Presidency

To get a rough sense of the  prominence of each issue, the summary chart below analyzes the degree to which this issue was included in each Leaders’ Declaration (by awarding 1 point for a mention of the issues without reference to gender or care, 2 points for inclusion with reference to gender or care, and 3 points for the most substantive and concrete mentions, such as the Brisbane commitment on labor force participation mentioned below). This full analysis can be found here.  

Analysis: Inclusion of Care-Related Issues in G20 Leaders’ Declarations 

Analysis: Inclusion of Care-Related Issues in G20 Leaders’ Declarations

A few takeaways: 

  • Labor force participation and decent/quality work have been a focus every year since Australia’s 2014 presidency.   

  • The gender pay gap and social protection are topics that have also been mentioned consistently over the last decade – seven or eight years out of 10.  

  • Since 2014, the focus on the care economy has broadened out from labor force participation and social protection and has become more inclusive and nuanced, with references to gender norms, care for those with disabilities, elder care, and care infrastructure issues like water. 

  • While we see a broadened focus on care issues over time, these topics are still treated as separate, sectoral issues, versus a comprehensive approach that prioritizes care systems. G20 commitments related to care have generally been put forward as a means to achieve greater women’s labor force participation; this is an instrumentalist approach compared to a more transformative approach where care is a social good and universal human right that advances gender equality and sustainable development.  

  • There are some issues that have not gotten much attention in this 10-year time span. For example, Italy in 2021 was the only year to briefly mention care for people with disabilities, and Italy and Japan in 2019 were the only times in which care for older people was mentioned. Care services, care infrastructure, early childhood education, and water and sanitation are other issues that have been infrequently referenced – three or less times.   

  • India’s Leaders’ Declaration in 2023 had the most holistic approach to care, mentioning nine of the 12 care economy issues included in this analysis, with a total score of 18 across those nine issues. This was followed by Italy in 2019, mentioning nine issues with a total score of 15.  

  • The lowest scores are seen earlier in the decade – Turkey in 2015 with a score of two and China in 2016 with a score of three. This is not surprising given the increased attention to the care economy over the last several years, particularly after COVID-19.  

Major G20 commitments related to the care economy 

There have been three specific G20 commitments or agreed-upon documents related to the care economy over the last decade, outlined below:  

  1. 25 by 25 – During the Australian presidency in 2014, G20 leaders collectively agreed to reduce the gap in women’s labor force participation 25 percent by 2025 (often referred to as “25 by 25” or the Brisbane goal), taking into account national circumstances, in order to bring more than 100 million women into the labor force, increase economic growth, and reduce poverty.  
    • Progress towards commitment: Since then, G20 leaders have consistently recommitted to this goal, affirmed that more action needs to be taken to achieve it, and looked to the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for support in tracking annual progress towards that goal; they have released reports every few years in that regard, and the latest was shared with the Indian presidency in 2023. As of 2022, despite some temporary setbacks due to COVID-19, in 12 G20 economies, the decline in the gender gap since 2012 is within half a percentage point of meeting the 25x25 goal. However, further progress is required in several countries.  
  2. The G20 Initiative for Early Childhood Development (ECD) – During the Argentinian presidency in 2018, G20 leaders launched the G20 Initiative for Early Childhood Development. The Initiative is a comprehensive commitment to addressing ECD to realize children’s rights and potential; it recognized the need for increased investment in ECD programs, urging countries to allocate more resources to quality ECD services, and it highlights the disproportionate burden of unpaid care work on women and girls, advocating for cross-sectoral policies that promote shared caregiving to enhance women’s economic empowerment. The Initiative calls on the Early Childhood Development Action Network (ECDAN) to identify ECD best practices, develop a platform for information sharing, and develop a database of financing initiatives.  

    • Progress towards commitment: Despite the comprehensive and inclusive language in the Initiative, like most G20 commitments, this is a non-binding Initiative. The Initiative provided recognition of the issues, but unfortunately it did not include funding or a mechanism to report on progress of the Initiative. This Initiative has not been mentioned in subsequent Leaders’ Declarations, so implementation of it seems to have fallen flat.  

  3. G20 Roadmap Towards and Beyond the Brisbane Target: more, better and equally paid jobs for women – During the Italian presidency in 2021, a Roadmap was created to achieve the 25 by 25 goal and improve the quality of women’s employment. The Roadmap approaches this goal in a systemic way, focusing not just on inclusion of women in the workforce, but also issues like decent work and comprehensive social protection, better outcomes and mobility in the labor market, and more balanced distribution of paid and unpaid work. Throughout the Roadmap, the care economy is prominently addressed, including working conditions for care workers, recognition of skills gained through care work, provision of social protection for unpaid caregivers, care leave policies, and investment in childcare and long-term care services. The Roadmap provides a list of indicators to track progress towards these goals, in addition to requesting the ILO and OECD to provide case studies highlighting successful policies and programs implemented by G20 countries.  

    • Progress towards commitment: The Indian and Indonesian Leaders’ Declarations in 2022 and 2023 include reaffirmations to implement the G20 Roadmap Towards and Beyond the Brisbane Target. The ILO and OECD’s 2023 report outlines progress towards the 25 by 25 goal and presents gender transformative policy measures to accelerate progress. However, there has not been any public reporting on the specific indicators included in the Brisbane Roadmap.  

Opportunities for the G20 Brazil presidency 

This year’s Brazilian G20 presidency has an opportunity to leverage the momentum on the care economy over the last decade and put forward concrete commitments that recognize care as integral to inclusive development and advance global progress. The G20 Brazil has already shown early signs of prioritizing this issue, including identifying the Care Economy as one of five priority issues in the Women20 (W20) engagement group, as well announcing the development of its own National Care Policy and National Care Plan. Additional recommendations for this year’s G20 presidency include:  

  • Emphasize the criticality of comprehensive care and support systems to sustainable and inclusive development within G20 commitments, action plans, and other outcome documents. This includes addressing care more holistically and strategically and incorporating care issues that have been less of a focus over the last decade, like care infrastructure and services, unpaid care, early childhood education and care, care for older people and people with disabilities, and water and sanitation.  

  • Recognizing the non-binding nature of G20 commitments, put forward more concrete recommendations on public financing for care services, infrastructure, and improved data and coordination.  

  • Build on the success of the 25 by 25 goal, and create a 2025-35 plan that goes beyond a focus on labor force participation and works to close labor market gender gaps, improve decent work for women, and which emphasizes comprehensive care systems. This plan should build on the G20 Roadmap Towards and Beyond the Brisbane Target and include clear mechanisms to track progress towards goals.  

This year offers a critical opportunity to push for more robust global support for the care economy. By building on past initiatives and ensuring that new commitments are tracked and well-funded, Brazil can lead significant global advances in the care economy that enable mothers and other caregivers to fully contribute to society and the economy, which will translate to better outcomes for everyone and greater progress on gender equality.  


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.

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