Why investing in care puts us on the path to recovery and builds resilient economies.

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Caring for each other is the most important work in society. It goes to the core of our humanity. In the face of the challenge of both recovery and resilience, investment in care creates jobs and boosts the economy.

Whichever way you look at it, investing in care is an imperative

IMF research outlines that a spend of 1% of GDP can create 33 million jobs and research from the UK shows that investment in care can create 2.7 times more jobs than the same investment in infrastructure, including construction. We desperately need investment in infrastructure and this is not an either/or choice, but the wider social and economic benefits of spending on care are compelling.

Covid-19 means it is now widely understood, across countries and classes, that we depend on the essential services of the care economy — health, education, child care, aged care and disability support. With the exposure of our dependence on essential workers in care during the pandemic, people understand more than ever that the shape of the economic recovery must ensure decent work in care. This should include the expansion of the numbers of workers necessary for safe and effective services. Recovery and resilience demands major investment in care.

The participation of women in the care economy means that spending in the sector has a profound effect on the participation of men in the workplace. Investment in care provides jobs for many, many women, and frees them from the burden of care, and allows them to participate more broadly in the community.

Women’s employment is one of the most rapid multipliers for economic development and growth, with the effects felt far and wide. While more than half of directly-created new jobs in care would go to women, but the employment multiplier effect would increase the overall employment of men by between 1.4 and 4%, depending on the country.

Finally, major investment in care will prepare economies and societies for future shocks, not just ensure recovery now. A resilient economy is built on protecting and supporting everybody. Covid-19 has tested governments and many nations have failed to respond and adequately protect the lives of their citizens, to secure job protection, wage protection, and universal social protection.

Equally, global support for the poorest of countries is totally inadequate and we have argued for debt relief and fiscal support for vulnerable nations, with the only conditionality being investment in SDG related priorities for their people. Jobs in care and universal social protection, including a global social protection fund for the poorest of countries, are central to that.

October 29 marks an international day of action on care for trade unions and civil society around the world. All governments are now on notice that people expect investment in care to be a central element in recovery plans and at the heart of a new social contract with their people. However, in addition to jobs and vital equipment, care workers must be afforded the dignity of decent work:

  • A wage with dignity
  • Collective bargaining and union representation
  • Paid sick leave
  • Workplace safety
  • Special status during a crisis.

We can accept no less.

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