Care systems & economies

Capstone One
Group photo at Africa Charter launch
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The future of care systems, economies and harnessing Africa’s demographic transition

Work in this area seeks to develop a programme of Africa-led collaborative research that generates Africa-centred knowledges about the realities and problematics of early child- and long-term care provision in the continent, and about solutions required to develop transformative care systems that support the  aspirations of individuals, communities and at national levels.

Collaborative projects

Building on two initial collaborative projects: Care Work and Economy Africa in Kenya and Senegal and Developing Ghana’s Care Economy and with support from the Perivoli Foundation we are presently working with the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), the Namibia Ministry of Health and Social Services and the University of Namibia and the AU Department of Social Affairs to support the identification of a priority agenda for research on LTC specifically for Southern Africa.

Project 1. Care Work and Economy Africa: toward transformative care systems and economies to harness Africa’s demographic transition


  • African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) (lead), University of Toronto,
  • Regional Consortium for Research on the Generational Economy (CREG) (Senegal);
  • UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA);
  • Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ) (South Africa);
  • Nawi: Afrifem Macroecoomics Collective


This grant will support the Care Work and the Economy Africa project to generate and foster the use of evidence and gender-aware macroeconomic tools that contribute to increased public investment in care provisioning and infrastructures for young children and older adults.

The African Population and Health Research Center and a team of global and regional partners will assess the economic and social impacts of existing care arrangements in Kenya and Senegal and develop innovative tools to inform national economic policies and budgets. The team will support regional partners in using new evidence to influence governments’ post-COVID-19 policies to address the demand for unpaid care work and support women’s economic agency. Bristol’s participation comprises PARC PhD student Hilda Owii, PARC Resarch Associate Francis Naab, and PARC Director Isabella Aboderin, as well as the School for Policy Studies’ Vicky Sharley.

We have begun to explore a possible replication of this project in Namibia, as findings and perspectives from a Southern African country would add immensely to the strength of the body of evidence generated. In initial discussions, HE institutions as well as the Namibia Ministry of Health and Social Services have expressed their enthusiasm for such an initiative. We will now pursue this, beginning with the co-development of a concept for the project and the identification and exploratory engagement of potentially interested funders.

Project 2. Developing Ghana’s care economy: case and potential


  • University of Ghana
  • African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC)
  • Aarhus University


Unpaid provision, mainly by women, of early childcare and long-term care (LTC) of frail older people within their families is globally a major driver of gender inequality. The time poverty and negative health impacts associated with unpaid care provision undermine women’s opportunities for economic empowerment. Unpaid care arrangements also often imply poor care of dependent children or elderly.

Expansion of access to organized care has been shown to free women’s time to engage in training and work, and to expand their employment and enterprise opportunities. Organized care thus gives women the potential for economic empowerment and can lead to improved quality of care. Recognition of the likely benefits of expanded organized care systems for individuals, gender equality and sustainable development, encapsulated in SDG target 5.4, is fueling research, debate and action mainly in the global North, Asia and LatinAmerica. Yet, in sub-Saharan Africa(SSA), the evidence base and policy discourse on organized care and the potential for developing a care economy remain patchy.

We will address this gap with an incisive mixed-method study in Ghana to generatecomprehensive evidence on the normative underpinnings, lived experiences and costs of unpaid LTC. It will give us knowledge of present and future demands for organized care; and of the feasibility and viability of novel micro-enterprise models for LTC provision, and their cost-effectiveness. In so doing, the project aims to build junior researcher capacity at the highest level of quality.

The study team combines in-depth expertise in economics, social gerontology, gender and public health, which combined with our prior successful collaboration, we are positioned to deliver the above-mentioned outputs efficiently. Potential impacts of the findings are enhanced by the team’s established relationships with key Ghanaian and African policy players and by Ghana’s role model status within SSA.

The timing of the project is in line with the SSA governments current focus on how best to achieve the SDGs and optimize labour market engagement of women and youth in order to reap a demographic dividend.