The Care Economy

Caring for the human family and community is not only central to human life, it is the economic and social foundation of all economies. Across the world, it is a cultural given that women are the primary care-givers, yet the value and moral imperatives of care work are undervalued, unrecorded and invisible in most societies.

As more and more women have entered the work force, some as primary breadwinners, family care has come under great stress, starting with women themselves. As families struggle to address their care needs they are confronted with inadequate social subsidies and social policies to address child-care, elder-care and care of the chronically ill and/or disabled. Often families must turn either to family members for support or, if they can afford it, they hire a care-giver, typically a woman from a developing country or a woman of color. In this way, many U.S. families are unwittingly fueling the global care crisis and creating care chains, transnational networks that reallocate physical and emotional labor so that local daily care tasks can be covered. Many of the hired care-givers are mothers themselves who leave their families to be care-givers for others. Their choice is driven by poverty.

As a society we fail to recognize the care crisis. The problem is identified as a personal/familial issue not as a social/political issue; a problem that is not only domestic, but also global. The solution lies in a transformed system of social universal protection. At its best, social policy is conceived as government involved in achieving social development and the social aspiration of its people. However, in the U.S. that ideal has been reduced to limiting social welfare policies to a set of "safety nets" to sustain people through government or market failures. This minimalist approach fails to recognize that people are the greatest asset of a country. Significant investment in human well-being takes place in the household sector in the form of unpaid labor in the care of children and the elder generation. To neglect this sector is to fail the future.

GWP will continue to advance the understanding of the personal, social, political and economics of care work and build a strong constituency to advocate for social policies that support care work, care-givers and those who receive care.