The Care Work and the Economy project’s 2018 fieldwork in South Korea helped us learn a great deal about how childcare and eldercare is provisioned, both in the paid and unpaid care sectors, in Korea.
The fieldwork consisted of both quantitative and qualitative surveys, including two sets of questionnaires for paid care workers and unpaid care providers. The qualitative component consists of two sets of in-depth interview questionnaires for care providers and recipients.
What We Learned about Family Caregiving in Korea
Although many families use at least one external care service to assist with childcare, 22% of respondents reported that their childcare was done only by family members (Kang et al.). Mothers spent six to seven hours more than fathers taking care of children on average.
(Kang et al.)
In contrast, 67% of respondents reported that their eldercare was done by family members; the rest reported using external care – usually the national LTC program. The primary caregivers were daughters-in-law (37% of the time), daughters (35%), spouses (15.6%), and sons (11%) (Kang et al.). Figure 12 shows how rather than the elder’s biological children, daughters-in-law provided the most care in terms of time, excepting the elder’s spouse.
(Kang et al.)
The cost of eldercare is shouldered solely by the primary caregiver in many cases (Kang et al., 2021)
Only 20% of family eldercare providers reported receiving regular financial support from other family members, less than 30% reported receiving help on an irregular basis, and only 8% of those over 65 years old were currently receiving LTC insurance program benefits.
Unpaid care provisioning impacts women’s employment.
The surveys showed that “families in which mothers were the sole caregiver for the child had the highest proportion of unemployed mothers, whereas families that received help with childcare from grandparents or paid care service had the highest proportion of employed mothers. With respect to both types of care arrangements, it was mostly daughters and daughters-in-law serving as primary caregiver, almost 70% of whom were unemployed.” (Kang et al.).
When asked about their preferred hours spent caring, eldercare workers reported a considerably lower number of hours on average than the actual hours they spent caring (see Table 2).
(Cha and Moon,2020)
Studies in the CWE-GAM Project stress concerns about the “quality of the caregiver’s life and the care they provide as well as the quality of life of the care recipient. Especially given that women are typically taking on the role of caregiver, this issue cannot be detached from concerns regarding women’s labor, women’s quality of life, and gender equality in Korea.”
Current Situation in Korea – Government Implications:
Korea currently “ranks amongst the top 10 OECD countries in terms of public investment in childcare and education” and implemented a mandatory universal LTCI program in 2008 (Peng et al 2021). Figure 2 and 3 show the evolution of child care and care work over time.
(Peng et al. 2021)
Studies report that despite the social care expansion, “childcare and long-term care sectors are heavily dominated by women, and these care workers are largely poorly paid, over-worked, and precariously employed. Care work is also accorded low social and occupational status, and many care workers experience significant social and emotional stress” (Peng et al. 2021; Suh 2020).
Suh (2020) finds that “public investment in quality care services tends to improve the working conditions of care workers (thereby benefiting care recipients), and unregulated private provision tends to worsen them.”
This suggests that “the government and public sector should drive the effort to meet the multi-faceted challenges posed by the growing demand for care work” (Suh 2020).
“The Korean government […] continues to see care work as an extension of women’s unpaid care work and social care expenditure as something that need to be tightly controlled. A better understanding on the part of policymakers about the importance of care and the role of care work and the care economy in generating employment and positive economic growth and supporting a healthy productive economy is therefore necessary.” (Peng et al.)
This blog was contributed by Aina Krupinski Puig, Research Assistant for the Care Work and the Economy project.
Cha, Seung-Eun, and Hyuna Moon. (2020). “A Glimpse of the Context of Family
Caregivers: Actual Time vs. Preferred Time for Elderly Care.” Care Work and the Economy (CWE-GAM), Program on Gender Analysis in Economics (PGAE), American University. https://doi.org/10.17606/dyfz-jp32.
Kang, Eunhye, Ki-Soo Eun, Jiweon Jun, Seung-Eun Cha, and Hyuna Moon. (2021). “Care
Arrangement and Activities in South Korea: An Analysis of the 2018 Care Work Family Survey on Childcare and Eldercare.” Care Work and the Economy (CWE-GAM), Program on Gender Analysis in Economics (PGAE), American University. https://doi.org/10.17606/8ZYD-AA52.
Peng, Ito, Seung-Eun Cha, and Hyuna Moon. (2021). “An Overview of Care Policies and the
Status of Care Workers in South Korea.” Care Work and the Economy (CWE-GAM), Program on Gender Analysis in Economics (PGAE), American University. https://doi.org/10.17606/EHN0-R646.
Suh, Joo Yeoun. (2020). “Estimating the Paid Care Sector in South Korea.” Care Work and the
Economy (CWE-GAM), Program on Gender Analysis in Economics (PGAE), American University. https://doi.org/10.17606/bpdf-v686.
Recent research by Lenore Palladino and Chirag Lala of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), University of Massachusetts Amherst, examines the effects of critical public investment in childcare, home health care, and paid family and medical leave (PFML) for the U.S. workforce, as proposed by the American Jobs Plan and the American Family Plan by the Biden-Harris Administration.
The authors find that investing in childcare and home health care workforce has positive macroeconomic effects, and the care workforce spends its own money on goods and services through the rest of the economy. They also find that PFML positively boosts the economy, as workers spend the wage replacement income they earn.
The authors model the effects of a $42.5 billion annual investment in childcare and a $40 billion investment in home health care with a minimum wage of $15 an hour and find that the proposed investment can create 564,000 additional jobs throughout the economy, and results in an increase in labor income of $82 billion annually. They find that universal paid family and medical leave, as proposed by the American Families Plan, would increase household income nationally by $28.5 billion, of which $19 billion would be wage replacement directly from the paid leave program, and $9.4 billion would be income earned by workers throughout the economy as people receiving wage replacement spend money on goods and services. This means that for every dollar spent on wage replacement as part of the paid leave program, other workers would earn an additional $.50.
This blog was authored by Shirin Arslan, program manager for the Care Work and the Economy Project.
This article was originally published in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs on July 9, 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the important intersections of climate change, food security, migration, and socio-economic inequalities. An understanding of the gendered dimensions of these interconnected global concerns is crucial for developing a post-COVID recovery plan that ensures a more equal world and bolsters its resilience.
In many ways, the year 2020 spotlighted the compounding issues societies must reckon with, including climate change, COVID-19, and sustained inequality. Today, we are witnessing the drastic consequences of climate destabilization resulting largely from human actions: frequent heat waves, intense flooding and droughts, water crises, increased biodiversity loss, reduced agricultural productivity, and faster disease transmissions. Many of these underlying causes of climate change also increase the risk of future pandemics. For example, deforestation leading to loss of animal habitat forces animals to migrate and brings them into closer contact with other animals or people, increasing the likelihood of zoonotic transmission.
The effects of climate change are being felt throughout the world; its worst impacts are particularly damaging in poorer regions, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia. Severe and prolonged droughts have already affected the Sahel and most of East Africa. Meanwhile, severe storms and flooding are causing extensive damage across the world, and climate change-related food insecurity has resulted in thousands of deaths. Climate change has also intensified water scarcity, reaching critical levels in seventeen countries. Major rivers no longer reach the ocean, while reservoirs and lakes dry up and underground water aquifers are depleted. As climate change continues, drier areas will only be more prone to drought and humid areas more prone to flooding. As food, water, and other resources become increasingly strained, fierce competition over scarce natural resources is likely to escalate. In fact, natural disasters and climate-related conflicts have already dislocated millions of people. In 2017 alone, the UNHCR estimates about 30.6 million new displacements associated with conflicts across 143 countries and territories.
Making Gender Visible in Climate Change Issues
It is fundamental to note that these aforementioned issues are gendered. Gender disparities in access to resources such as land, credit, and extension training have put many women at greater risk with regards to maintaining their livelihoods and accessing food and water. Climate change not only reflects pre-existing gender inequalities, but it also reinforces them. The pivotal role of women in food security is well-documented. Recent estimates for Africa indicate that women provide 40 percent of labor in crop agriculture while at the same time providing labor in small livestock, poultry, and other food production-related activities. Many are income earners, serving as breadwinners in female-headed households while performing most of the household and family care work. However, gender inequalities in the ownership and control of household assets, gender discrimination in labor markets, and rising work burdens due to male out-migration undermine women’s income generating capabilities. Much of women’s work in food production and food access remain statistically invisible because conventional economic indicators fail to capture the significance of their contributions—contributions that are also overlooked in policymaking.
The gendered consequences of climate change include effects on migration flows. Migration has diversifies livelihoods and serves as an important coping mechanism through the promise of remittances or a better life. Internal and international migrations involve individuals and families seeking protection as refugees from the violence in their communities and states and those whose livelihoods are threatened by natural or man-made factors such as natural disasters, economic crises, or political instability. More recently, the increased frequency of extreme weather events and high temperatures have led to climate-induced migration flows exemplified by the influx of climate refugees seeking entrance into the United States in response to hurricanes, and rural-urban migration in Vietnam in response to typhoons.
The ability of households and their members to relocate varies depending on their resources and their vulnerability to the risk of falling further into poverty. Both the gendered dimension of migration and the climate shock impact on migration decisions are nuanced. Migration can challenge certain social expectations and cultural norms. Household care responsibilities and gender roles may restrain women from migrating. In the case of increased conflicts over natural resources, for instance, women are less able to flee than men as they are often responsible for taking care of the children. In Indonesia, climate shocks have promoted more migration among men. Similarly, male migration in Ethiopia and Nigeria has increased with drought and weather variability, while women are forced to stay put due to financial constraints. On the other hand, increasing demands for care workers in countries with high female labor force participation and aging populations provides employment opportunities for women, fueling international migration flows. In 2019 alone 48 percent of the 272 million (3.5 percent of the world’s population) international immigrants were female.
Gender and the COVID-19 Pandemic
The trends in climate-induced problems have foreshadowed the severity of the crises induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has affected all aspects of everyday life and work and has placed a heavy toll on families, communities, and economies. It threatens food security for tens of millions of people. The COVID-19 crisis, like the climate crisis, is causing disparate impacts across nations and social groups. It poses a much greater risk to elderly persons and those with underlying risk factors. Countries with fewer economic resources and weak social and health infrastructure are at a higher risk, not only in the short term but also in the longer term. Politically underrepresented groups suffer the most from lockdowns, rising unemployment, and unexpected medical costs, exacerbating existing economic inequalities.
More importantly, the COVID-19 crisis also unravels and further amplifies gender inequalities. As millions of people lose their jobs or become forced to work from home, many, especially mothers, are compelled to simultaneously juggle work and childcare responsibilities. Unpaid care work has increased not only with children out of school but also with the heightened care needs of the elderly and the sick, especially when health services are either inaccessible or overwhelmed. Ultimately, many women are earning less, saving less, working precarious or insecure jobs, or living close to poverty.
Gender-based violence is rapidly increasing as well. Many women are being forced to “lock down” at home with their abusers at a time when support services for survivors are being disrupted or made inaccessible. In Peru, the imposition of lockdowns has led to a 48 percent increase in phone calls to the helpline for domestic violence.
The COVID-19 pandemic also exposes the precarious employment conditions of many “essential workers” whose jobs increase their risks of infection and are often employed on temporary contracts. Migrants are among the key workers who deliver essential services; they play a critical role in essential sectors in many high-income countries working as crop pickers, food processors, care assistants, and cleaners in hospitals. These migrant workers help facilitate systemic resilience to threats, but their own vulnerabilities go unaddressed.
We cannot afford to ignore the particular vulnerability of women when analyzing the effects of climate change on food security and migration, and we cannot ignore their susceptibility to food insecurity and violence. As governments and policymakers grapple with the challenge of bolstering resilience, they will need to think beyond the effects of these shocks on markets and to pay more attention to the heightened social and economic inequalities. Such an objective requires a comprehensive, gendered approach that considers women’s roles in the provision of essential goods and services and the differentiated impacts of climate change.
Fiscal stimulus packages and emergency measures have been put in place by many countries to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, but it is crucial that these responses as well as post-COVID recovery plans put women and girls’ interests and needs, rights, and protection at their center. Such responses and plans should include expanded public investment in the care delivery system, from childcare to healthcare to eldercare, which the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted. There is also a need for gender-sensitive analyses of the effects of economic, social, and migration policies along with the development of legal frameworks that effectively address domestic violence. Meaningful participation of women in policy discourse and dialogue addressing climate change is vital as they are disproportionately vulnerable.
Governments should also undertake and support the collection of sex-disaggregated data on various economic, social, and climate-change related indicators as the lack of data is sometimes used as an excuse not to implement gender-responsive policies. As UN Women has stated, “it is not just about rectifying long-standing inequalities but also about building a more just and resilient world.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has informed our understanding of the care economy, exposing disproportionate inequities that must be addressed to alleviate the international erasure of care workers. These issues are addressed in the latest Susan and Michael J. Angelides Lecture, in which Naomi Klein moderates a discussion between Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and CWE-GAM researcher Dr. İpek İlkkaracan on COVID-19 and the care economy.
We live in an economic system that has traditionally deprioritized and invisibilized care workers, many of which are women of color, migrant, and poor women. The economic crisis brought on by the pandemic has consequently given policymakers and academics “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address [the valuation of care work] from an intersectional [approach],” states Congresswoman Jayapal.
The Care Crisis Exposed by the Pandemic Recession:
When mass unemployment hit during the pandemic, the cracks in the economic infrastructure of America began to show. As millions of people lost their jobs, the highest increase in the number of uninsured Americans was subsequently recorded. This high number of uninsured people is a direct consequence of healthcare being employer-sponsored. Congresswoman Jayapal notes that “Medicare For All would have strengthened the response to the pandemic…30 percent of COVID-19 deaths were related to a lack of insurance.”
While gains were made in the past decade in regards to gender equality in the workplace, Congresswoman Jayapal notes that “as soon as the pandemic hit, it was the women who went back to taking care of [their] families.” Dr. İpek İlkkaracan explains that this is because “the nature of women’s employment is often determined by their care responsibilities…unpaid care work is often articulated as one of the most significant barriers to labor force participation.” This notion was reflected in jobs reports—in December of 2020, women accounted for 100 percent of job loss, and within that, 154,000 Black women exited the workforce.
In its current state, the care economy produces a pattern of inequality that disproportionately affects women of color and migrant women. The average caregiver salary is $12.74, and the care work sector is marked by poor working conditions with no adequate social protections and low wages. This is why, as Congresswoman Jayapal notes, the fight for one fair wage is pertinent. “An increase in the minimum wage would give 32 million workers a raise, 60 percent of which are women while 1 in 4 of the women who would benefit from this increase are Black or Latina.”
A Framework for a More Caring Economy:
Dr. İpek İlkkaracan has developed a framework that acknowledges the care economy. This framework, coined as the Purple Economy (a nod to the color representative of many women’s movements), envisions a gender-egalitarian and caring economic system. Dr. İlkkaracan recommends “labor market regulations and investment in care services such as long-term care, early childhood education, education, and healthcare” as policy interventions to start the process of adequately valuing care.
Not only is investment in care important from a humanitarian and ethical perspective, but it is also conducive to economic stability. Dr. İlkkaracan’s research has revealed that investment in care services produces a high employment multiplier: for every dollar invested in care, three times as many jobs are created in the wider economy. This is because the care sector is intertwined with other sectors such as food, transport, and financial services. In the Asia-Pacific region, Dr. İlkkaracan’s research has shown that “up to four trillion dollars could be added to GDP if unpaid care work (75% of which done by women) was valued in market terms.” While this may seem astronomical, the amount of unpaid work completed globally in one day equates to 16.4 billion hours—which translates to two billion full-time jobs. Dr. İlkkaracan’s recent research also reveals that a “3.5-4% commitment of GDP to investment in care services would create 120 million additional jobs and have a large impact on poverty alleviation.”
To watch the full conversation and learn more about the Purple Economy, see below.
Dr. İpek İlkkaracan is a CWE-GAM researcher a part of the Rethinking Macroeconomics and Gender Aware Applied Economics Working Groups.
This blog was authored by Lucie Prewitt, a research assistant for the CWE-GAM project.
Last month, the Biden administration revealed the details of the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan.
The plan recognizes that investing in the care economy, as with investments in traditional infrastructure, can lift incomes, unleash productivity, and pave the path towards a more equitable economic recovery and growth.
Addressing the care crisis
Built into the plan is a pledge to “solidify the infrastructure of our care economy by creating jobs and raising wages and benefits for essential home care workers.” The plan calls for Congress to invest $400 billion towards expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities. These investments will help Americans to obtain the long-term services and support they need, while creating new jobs and offering care workers a long-overdue raise, stronger benefits, and an opportunity to organize or join a union and collectively bargain. Research has shown that increasing the pay of care workers leads to better quality care overall. Through creating well-paying care jobs with benefits and o collectively bargaining rights, as well as building state infrastructure, the plan aims to improve both the quality of job for care workers and the quality of service for care recipients.
Lack of access to childcare makes it harder for parents, especially mothers, to fully participate in the workforce, hurting families and hindering U.S. growth and competitiveness. In areas with the greatest shortage of child care slots, women’s labor force participation is about three percentage points less than in areas with a high capacity of child care slots. The pandemic has severely exacerbated this problem with more than 1 in 4 facilities still remaining closed as of December 2020. President Biden is calling on Congress to provide $25 billion to help upgrade child care facilities and increase the supply of child care in areas that need it most. These funds are to be provided through a Child Care Growth and Innovation Fund for states to build a supply of infant and toddler care in high-need areas. Also included in this $25 billion is a call for expanded tax credits to incentivize businesses to provide care facilities at their establishments. This will grant accessible, high quality care and learning environments for children of employees. This particular part of the plan is structured so that employers will receive 50 percent of the first $1 million of construction costs per facility.
Investment in care is investment in infrastructure
As Cecelia Rouse, Chair of the Economic Advisors for the Biden administration, recently indicated during a recent press conference, we need to “upgrade our definition of infrastructure” to include the care economy. Rouse defended the Biden administration’s plan to spend $400 billion of the infrastructure plan’s budget on the care economy, defining it as a legitimate infrastructure investment and a key component to addressing economic inequities in the U.S. The care economy is critical to U.S. economic activity, and its absence would greatly hinder economic productivity. The inclusion of care work and the care economy in the American Jobs Plan is a critical first step in mending a critically broken care infrastructure in the U.S.
Still, it is only the first step. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that fails to provide national paid family leave and medical leave programs, and where hundreds of thousand sit on waiting lists for desperately needed home care. LeadingAge, which represents service providers in the sector, estimates that half of all Americans will need long-term services and support after turning 65, and that by 2040, a quarter of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. In addition to the President’s proposal for the care economy, we also need investments to finally put America on a path to universal childcare and early learning, national paid family and medical leave and paid sick days for all workers. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed both the importance of care work and the vulnerabilities of our care infrastructure. At the same time, it has also created an opportunity for us to rethink the value of care and care work, opening ways for us to rebuild a more resilient care infrastructure and a more inclusive economy.
This blog was authored by Jenn Brown, CWE-GAM Communications Assistant
Institute for Women’s Policy Research released a report in February 2021”IWPR Women’s Priorities and Economic Impact Survey” outlining a recent poll of 1452 women in the U.S. The findings are backdropped by the experience of women throughout the pandemic and resulting economic turndown, in which 2.35 million women have left the workforce since February 2020.
Some of the key findings from this survey are:
- 1 in 4 women report that they are worse off financially than one year ago
- Nearly half of all women are worried about the financial situation of their families
- 1 in 4 women report having needed to take time work off but did not do so
- 40% of women reported care demands stopped them from working or forced them to reduce hours
- 69% of women support paid sick time to have a child, recover from a serious health condition, or care for a family member
- 20% of women with children want the Biden administration to address childcare and education in the first 100 days
In terms of women experiencing reduced paid work as a result care demands, this has also been pointed to within recent working papers put out by the
The impact of care demands on women’s paid work is explored in a number of Care Work and the Economy Working Paper Series. For instance in two recent papers, “Gender Wage Equality and Investments in Care: Modeling Equity and Production” and “Parental Caregiving and Household Dynamics”.
Education and childcare were listed among the top priorities for the Biden administration to address within the first 100 days among survey participants. This is largely because women’s ability to reenter the workforce largely depends upon safe reopening of schools and childcare facilities.
Latinas have been hit particularly hard according to this survey, reporting the highest levels of taking leave from jobs in order to provide care. However, across all ethnicities, 69 percent of women expressed strong support for paid sick leave and the ability to take time away from work to provide care or recover from illness.
The Unites States remains the only high-income country in in the world that fails to provide guaranteed paid sick or family leave for workers. The Family Medical Leave Act, which provides unpaid job protection, and only for about 56 percent of workers. The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act has provided access to paid leave as a result of the pandemic but falls short in the fact that more than 100 million workers are excluded from this because they are caregivers.
In order to address the many issues identified throughout this survey, there is strong need for targeted programs and policy solutions that will aid a gender equitable recovery. This recovery should not only address immediate short term needs but include long term strategies that will create more resilient systems that recognize the contributions of women to the workforce, society and family structure.
IWRP specific recommendations for the short term are:
- Continuing economic impact payments
- Expanding access to affordable healthcare
- Providing paid sick and medical leave
- Raising the federal minimum wage
- Building a new childcare infrastructure
Equitable economic recovery necessitates a national care system that meets the needs of all families, raises wages and provides quality childcare, treating it as a public good instead of a private obligation.
This blog was authored by Jenn Brown, CWE-GAM Communications Assistant
A recent Gender & COVID-19 brief (also a sign on letter) “Making the Biden-Harris Transition Plan for COVID-19 gender-responsive” outlines how the Biden-Harris Transition Plan in the US can be made more gender-responsive. The brief is a starting point in highlighting the potential within the Biden-Harris Transition Plan, using economic recovery as an entry point, with recommendations based on the best practices for feminist economic recovery from COVID-19.
The Biden-Harris Economic Recovery Plan is constructed around four challenges which must be overcome to rebuild the nation. The brief applies a gender lens for each challenge, emphasizing that for these efforts to be truly equitable, it is critical that they are not implemented in isolation and an intersectional gender lens is used in policy making and interventions.
- Mobilize American manufacturing and innovation to ensure that the future is made in America, and in all of America: Targeted support to business owners from under-represented groups in the forms of emergency funds, skills, training and mentorship; and direct funding to businesses in women-majority sectors, including caregiving and social enterprises, should be a centerpiece of the policy.
- Mobilize American Ingenuity to build a modern infrastructure and an equitable, clean equitable future: Investment in care infrastructure is also green, as it supports jobs for women (in the care sector) and men (in the construction sector), and provides services communities need to thrive. Implementing stimulus programs focused on ‘green jobs’ should proactively plan for gender equity and include formal programming for women, with special emphasis on displaced workers, communities of color, and women who are in recovery from incarceration.
- Mobilizing American talent and heart to build a 21st century caregiving and education workforce: Prioritize universally accessible, free (or highly subsidized) childcare and long-term elder care as central to its economic recovery plan. This can in part be accomplished through the designation of direct public funds to existing regulated and licensed care services. Direct public funds should also be used to invest in measures to keep workers safe and expand the number of care spaces available. Importantly, many workers who provide the backbone of the care economy are informally employed, wherein they have limited or no access to social protection. As such, government assistance schemes should be expanded to include family and informal caregivers, and an expedited path to permanent resident status should be created for precarious immigrant care workers so that they can access those schemes. This has a much greater effect than simply creating employment in the care sector but facilitates women’s participation across the economy.
- Mobilize across the board to advance racial equity in America: There can be no gender justice while there is racial injustice. Racial and gender inequities are inextricably linked to the economy. For example, Black, racialized, and immigrant women are disproportionately represented as personal support workers, cleaners, and in other essential but low-paid occupations – many of which are in the informal economy – that do not provide paid sick leave or family leave.
READ FULL BRIEF: Solomon A, Morgan R, Wenham C, Smith J, Nacif Pimenta D, Mueller V, Herten-Crabb A and Hawkins K (2020) Making the Biden-Harris Transition Plan for COVID-19 gender-responsive, Gender and COVID-19 project
This blog was authored by Jenn Brown, CWE-GAM Communications Assistant
The need for an inclusive, gender-equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is slowly gaining recognition as it lays bare and exacerbates inequities in economic, social, health, and environmental policies and programs.
The Hawai’i State Commission on the Status of Women convened a working group to develop and share principles and practices for implementing a gender-responsive and feminist response to COVID-19, culminating in the publication of Building Bridges, Not Walking on Backs: A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for COVID-19.
Similarly, the YWCA Canada and the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management published a joint assessment, A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for Canada: Making the Economy Work for Everyone. The plan highlights critical principles and provides actionable recommendations for the government to develop and implement post-pandemic recovery policies that are equitable and inclusive of all marginalized people.
Together, the Canadian and Hawaiian plans provide a roadmap to recovery through gender-transformative policy-making. Both are built on an intersectional analysis of the impact of the pandemic and call for an approach to economic recovery that examines and confronts the root causes of inequality, including but not limited to patriarchy, ableism, queerphobia, white supremacy, colonialism, classicism, and racism.
A recent brief by Alexandra Solomon, Kate Hawkins, Rosemary Morgan of the Gender and COVID-19 Working Group describes the intersecting, complementary, and mutually reinforcing elements of the two frameworks and echoes the call for feminist economic recovery. It provides a collection of best practices for the core tenets of post-pandemic policy-making which should be echoed and adapted by policy-makers from other settings.
Key Recommendations to Policymakers:
- Pandemic responses should be underpinned by data that is disaggregated by sex and other markets of inequity at the national and subnational level. This data should be made public and used in decision making.
- Women-led organizations, feminist academics and women’s experiences and ideas should be at the center of recovery efforts in government bodies, official consultations and online spaces.
- The provision of universally accessible, free childcare and long-term eldercare should be central to economic recovery plans and attempts to ‘open up’ the economy. Precariously employed immigrant care workers should be provided with an expedited path to permanent resident status.
- Austerity-induced budget cuts should be avoided as they impact most greatly on the poor, women and other marginalized groups. Instead policy-makers should strengthen public welfare assistance (such as unemployment benefit) and labor rights (such as paid sick leave, family leave and a guaranteed living wage).
- Special stimulus funds should be designated for high risk groups, such as those who are not eligible under existing government schemes, are disproportionately experiencing financial hardship and poverty, and already face barriers to accessing their rights to health, safety, independence and education.
- Invest in universal, affordable, and sustainable access to water, sanitation, hygiene and housing, and prioritize closing the gender digital divide.
- Support women in female dominated economic sectors particularly hard hit by the pandemic as well as historically marginalized women workers, such as Indigenous women and sex workers.
- A feminist recovery is aligned with a ‘green’ recovery and the two should be considered in conjunction.
- Revisions of fiscal and monetary policies should be taken as opportunities to address inequality in wages, employment, and quality of life.
- Health systems should be restructured to focus on Universal Health Coverage and to address problems in service access and quality due to sexism, colonialism and white supremacy. Tackling the social determinants of health should be a priority.
- All hate, violence, and oppression against women, gender-diverse people, and Indigenous, Black, and racialized communities must be addressed in the COVID-19 recovery.
READ FULL BREIF:
Solomon, A., Hawkins, K., and Morgan, R. (2020). Hawaii and Canada: Providing lessons for feminist pandemic recovery plans to COVID-19.The Gender and COVID-19 Working Group.
This blog was authored by Shirin Arslan, Program Manager for the Care Work and the Economy Project
The childcare system in the US was already in a critical state of inadequacy, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made this worse. A recent report released by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) – “We Need to Save Child Care Before It’s Too late” – explores the U.S. childcare crisis in detail, outlining the shortages in child care and the consequent economics effects of those shortages.
According to the report, as of August 2020, roughly 214,000 U.S. childcare workers were out of a job and 4 out of 5 childcare providers expected to close permanently if no public assistance is provided. This is of course having a trickle-down effect on the working parents that rely on this childcare, and 13% of parents reported having to reduce their working hours.
This issue is further compounded in the many areas throughout the country considered to be “childcare deserts” where the supply of childcare falls well below the demand and for many families is not accessible due to cost constraints. Although there are assistance programs available for those in need, such as the Head Start program, many of those that qualify still do not receive assistance due to severe lack of funding. In over half of states, childcare and early childhood education exceeds the cost of college tuition, and bearing this burden is extremely difficult for lower income families.
Middle income families that do not qualify at all for government funded programs are under even more strain with the financial obligations of childcare. Infant care is in particular incredibly expensive, and a median income family home could spend anywhere from 23% to 77% of their income on the care of their infant, depending on the state. For single mothers in the median income range, this could be from 29% to 94%.
Childcare costs in the U.S. are exponentially higher than its OECD counterparts. The U.S. spends less that half the amount of its GDP on childcare in comparison to the average of other OECD nations. In fact, the U.S. spends 3 to 6 times less than France, New Zealand, and all the Nordic countries. Where in many OECD nations, childcare is free or very inexpensive, making it widely accessible, in the US, the accessibility and quality of childcare for working parents is contingents upon their economic status. A lack of accessible and affordable childcare leads to lost earnings for parents, an estimated $20 – $35 billion in total, according to the Economic Policy Institute. This in turn translates into a loss of roughly $4.2 billion dollars in federal and state tax revenue per year. The cost of childcare is skyrocketing past the rate of inflations as well, between the years 2000 and 2020, day care and preschool costs rose double that of inflation.
Extensive research has shown that accessible and affordable childcare has strong positive economic benefits and contributes to the well-being of children and parents. Without the benefit of accessible and affordable childcare, many parents, mostly women, experience reduced earnings for the duration of their careers. This also contributes tremendously to the gender wage gap. Furthermore, according to a 2015 Council of Economic Advisors report, every dollar spent on childcare and early education carries the potential to yield eight dollars in societal benefit.
Childcare workers also struggle due to low wages, poor benefits, and precarious working conditions. In 2017, an average childcare employer kept 13 workers on payroll, each of whom earned just $20,886 on average in annual compensation. In 2019, the median hourly wage of U.S. childcare workers was $11.65, a near-poverty wage. Nonetheless, employee’s compensation is the highest cost for these establishments, as they must maintain a low ratio of children to caretaker, which varies from state to state. Cost of rent is another major expense for childcare providers, but reducing the size of the facility, and therefore the rent costs, is not a viable option as crowding and lack of outdoor space has been shown to increase the risk of infections and injury within the centers.
There is still a great amount of work to be done in the U.S. The CARES Act passed in March of 2020 provided $3.5 billion of funding to states in childcare subsidies for low income families. Additionally, the inclusion of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provided $2.3 billion to childcare providers across the country, enabling 460,000 childcare workers to remain employed. Although these measures were helpful, much more assistance is still needed. For the most part, smaller childcare centers and home-based programs were not able to access these PPP funds at all, with only 29% of them receiving these funds. The vast majority of childcare operations across the board, many of which single-person operations, were also not able to access these PPP funds at all. The HEROES Act, passed in the House of Representatives in May, would provide another $7 billion in relief for childcare centers and $850 to fund child and family care for essential workers. However, this legislation has stalled in the Senate.
This pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to an already inadequate childcare system in the U.S. Without desperately needed assistance, the U.S. faces the potential of losing 80% of its childcare capacity. This will in turn deprive working parents of the critical services and infrastructure needed for the economy to recover. Read the complete report “We Need to Save Child Care Before It’s Too Late.”
This blog was authored by Jenn Brown, CWE-GAM Communications Assistant