Colombia and Chile cooperate to promote co-responsibility on care work

Both countries join efforts to support the care economy as a central axis for gender equality in the region.

Everyone has needed care at some point ―and will need it again in the future― it is a natural and intrinsic part of life. These tasks represent an indispensable labour for social, human, territorial and economic development, among others.

Traditionally, we speak of women as caregivers: the mother who takes care of her children, the wife who takes care of the house, the daughter who takes care of her parents when they need it. These are care tasks that are mostly carried out by women, without remuneration, and which represent time and dedication that they take away from their education, work, social life, etc.

In Latin America, women dedicate more than twice as much time on unpaid domestic and care work as men (ECLAC, 2021). Care economy is defined as:

Unpaid work performed in the household, related to the maintenance of the house, the care of other persons in the household or community and the maintenance of the paid labour force (…). This category of work is of fundamental economic importance in a society” (Article 2 Law 1413 of 2010, Colombia).

Some countries have measured the contribution of this unpaid care work to the economy, and found that it would represent on average 21.3% of the GDP in the Latin American region, almost a quarter of the GDP in some of the countries; 74.5% of this contribution is made by women (El País, 2023). The figures are evidence of this inequality, which was deepened by the COVID-19 crisis, a time when many women had to give up even their paid jobs to devote themselves to caregiving. This gap could deepen in this region that is ageing at an increasing rate (ECLAC, 2023).

Not only is there a gender gap in care, but there is also the challenge of accessing these services. Both issues are intertwined because women, who are usually the caregivers or the ones accompanying to care services, must choose jobs that make these tasks compatible, with conditions of greater vulnerability, lower pay, and flexibility. This situation has been exacerbated by the pandemic and has been referred to as the “care crisis”.

In Ibero-America, there are examples of cooperation that address this problem. For example, Colombia has the Manzanas del Cuidado (by its name in Spanish), which is a strategy of the District Care System of Bogotá. Here caregivers have time to perform the activities that interest them or receive the services they need while the people they care for are attended by professionals; all free of charge. This initiative guarantees access to their services within 15-20 minutes, with mobile units available for those who live further away from the facilities, and a mobile unit that provides at-home-service for those who cannot leave their houses easily.

The Manzanas have a “School of Care for Men”, where they work to uproot the idea that only women know how to care, giving classes and courses to men on some of the tasks related to home care. There are currently 21 Manzanas del Cuidado, and it is expected to reach 45 by the year 2035. In addition, at the national level in Colombia, the creation of the National System of Care is being proposed, through which services and policies are to be articulated to respond to household care demands, in a co-responsible manner.

As a local government, the District Care System of Bogotá works to meet the care demands of the city’s households in a co-responsible manner between the State, the District, the private sector and civil society. The aim is to guarantee the rights of caregivers through the recognition, redistribution, and reduction of unpaid care work, progressively transforming the sexual division of labour. Bogotá is the first city to launch a Local Care System in Latin America.

Building on this experience, Colombia and Chile agreed on the Bilateral SSC project “Inhabiting Neighbourhood Civic Care Centres”. Chile has recognized the need to advance the co-responsibility of care and to increase the role of the State as guarantor of rights. For this reason, it incorporates the care approach in its lines of work and programmes, with the aim of putting people at the centre, through the support and consolidation of the various community networks in neighbourhoods and territories.

As background to the project, in early 2023, the Neighbourhood Recovery Programme of the Ministry of Housing and Urbanism of Chile (MINVU, by its Spanish acronym), with support from the Japanese Cooperation Agency (JICA), developed an Action Plan in Colombia in which a partnership was established with the Women’s Secretariat of Bogotá. Thanks to this process, the experience of the Colombian capital became known and the opportunity for technical exchanges based on Bogota’s experience was proposed (AGCID and APC-Colombia, internal documents).

At the end of November, the first technical visit of the Ministry of Housing and Urbanism of Chile to six facilities of the Manzanas de Cuidado in Bogotá took place and workshops were held related to the management, replicability, and evaluation of these initiatives. The next actions of the project (estimated to last 24 months) include a technical visit to Chile by officials from the Women’s Secretariat of Bogotá, the collective creation of toolkits based on local experiences, the collective construction of guides for urban and social project processes, as well as the holding of seminars on care and gender.

March 2024


Source: SEGIB based on Colombian Presidential Agency of International Cooperation – APC Colombia, Chilean Agency for International Cooperation for Development – AGCID, United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean – ECLAC (2023) (2021) and Planeta Futuro on El País (2023).

Photo: Story “Chile plans to strengthen its National Care System using Bogota’s experience with the Manzanas del Cuidado” on: (28th November 2023).