ESCR-Net case intervention to encourage UN guidance on unpaid care work and social security

Publish Date: 
Friday, December 22, 2017

In October 2017, members of the ESCR-Net Strategic Litigation Working Group and the Women and ESCR Working Group worked collaboratively to submit a third-party intervention to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). The intervention was made in connection with Communication no. 10/2015, a case currently being considered by CESCR under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights communications procedure.

ESCR-Net organizational members contributing to the intervention include: Amnesty International, Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ), Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), Economic and Social Rights Centre – Hakijamii, Foro Ciudadano de Participación por la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos (FOCO), Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR), International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP), Legal Resources Centre (LRC) and Social Rights Advocacy Centre (SRAC). Individual members, Professor Lilian Chenwi (of the School of Law, University of Witwatersrand) and Viviana Osorio Pérez (of CARE International’s Dignified Work program) also contributed to the intervention.


This case was initiated by the Ombudsman of Ecuador on behalf of a woman who argued that the state had violated her right to social security. The case addresses the state authorities’ rejection of the claimant’s pension request on the basis that contributions she had made over a five-year period – during which time she had engaged in unpaid care work – were invalid. The case gives CESCR an important opportunity to build on its previous General Comment No. 19 on the right to social security. It allows CESCR to provide more detailed guidance on the application of the Covenant in contexts of social security protection for women undertaking unpaid care work. While unpaid care work is undertaken disproportionately by women around the world, current institutional structures and practices often fail to recognise this type of contribution. This leads to adverse, intersectional impacts for women in terms of access to paid employment, the ability to secure equal pay and pensions, and their enjoyment of social security protections generally.

Focus of third party intervention

This is the first case in which CESCR has an opening to consider the right to social security (article 9), and its interaction with the rights to non-discrimination and substantive equality of women guaranteed in articles 2(2) and 3, and the right to an adequate standard of living (article 11) under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. To support the development of progressive jurisprudence, ESCR-Net members provided CESCR with relevant international and comparative jurisprudence and analysis. In this way, members encouraged the Committee to issue specific guidance to Ecuador regarding the immediate measures and longer-term structural changes needed. Specifically, ESCR-Net members emphasized the need for Ecuador to: (1) ensure that existing social security systems are enjoyed without indirect or intersectional discrimination, including for women who undertake unpaid care work; (2) take positive measures to ensure social security protections for persons unable to access or benefit from existing social security systems, particularly for older women; and (3) ensure that existing social security systems facilitate access to information and are subject to due process, including the right to an effective remedy.

The intervention follows the process established by CESCR’s Guidance on third-party interventions (in English), released in 2016. It is anticipated that CESCR will determine the case and issue its Views in early 2018. At that time, ESCR-Net will include a case summary in its Caselaw Database.


Available case documents

claimant’s original communication to CESCR

claimant’s reply to state’s response

ESCR-Net’s third party intervention and annex