This week, the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE) will hold its Annual Conference: “Sustaining Life: Challenges of Multidimensional Crises” starting on Tuesday, June 22nd, and concluding Friday, June 25th. This conference will provide a forum for scholars to discuss feminist approaches to constructing “inclusive and resilient economic and political systems and [sustainting] our environment” in the context and aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Care Work and the Economy Project will be leading two panel discussions on Wednesday, June 23rd and Thursday, June 24th: “Those Who Care: Improving the Lives of Caregivers and Workers” chaired by Elizabeth King and Ito Peng, and “Seeking Gender Aware Applied modelings: Case of South Korea” chaired by Young Ock Kim. In the discussions, CWE-GAM researchers will present gender-aware macroeconomic models, data collected from unique surveys of care providers and families, and microeconomic simulations used to better understand care work and the economy.
“Those Who Care: Improving the Lives of Caregivers and Workers” is scheduled for Wednesday, June 23rd from 3:30 to 5:00 pm (EDT time) and will contribute to ongoing efforts to “illustrate the intersectionality of care provisioning, economic growth, and distribution.” With an increasing need for care due to the rapid decline in fertility rates and aging population, South Korea offers a unique context to introduce models and analyze surveys given to households, child and eldercare workers.
There will be four papers presented in this panel:
“The Effects of Public Social Infrastructure and Gender Equality on Output and Employment: The Case of South Korea” by Cem Oyvat and Ozlem Onaran “introduces a post-Kaleckian feminist model to analyze the effects of public social expenditure and gender gaps on output and employment building on Onaran, Oyvat, and Fotopoulou (2019), and extending it with an endogenous labor supply and wage bargaining model.”
“The Quality of Life of Family Caregivers: Psychic, Physical, and Economic Costs of Eldercare in South Korea” by Jiweon Jun, Elizabeth King, and Catherine Hensly “examines the psychic, physical, and opportunity costs of caregiving within the family using data from a special-purpose national survey of 501 households conducted in Seoul in 2018.”
“Quality of Care, Commitment Level, and Working Conditions: Understanding the Care Workers’ Perspective” by Shirin Arslan, Maria Floro, Arnob Alam, Eunhye Kang, and Seung-Eun Cha uses “the 2018 Care Work Economy (CWE-GAM) survey data collected from 600 child and eldercare workers in South Korea [to] analyze patterns of commitment levels among [paid carers] in various settings such as private and public institutions as well as in homes of recipients by conducting tobit regressions and entropy econometrics for robustness checks.”
“Impacts of COVID-19 on Work-Family Balance in South Korea: Empirical Findings and Policy Implications” by Ito Peng and Jiweon Jun examines COVID-19’s unequal impact between men and women in South Korea using data from a survey distributed to “1,252 households with at least one child aged between 0 and 12 in June 2020 to find out how the first 2-month social distancing measure had affected their work, childcare arrangements, and their wellbeing.”
“Seeking Gender Aware Applied modelings: Case of South Korea” is scheduled for Thursday, June 24th from 3:30 to 5:00 pm (EDT time), which will share the results of gender-aware applied modelings and micro simulations for South Korea. The panel will discuss which fiscal policies are likely to be the most effective at reducing gender gaps in paid employment and which forms of public investment best contribute to reducing and redistributing unpaid work between genders and socio-economic groups.
There will be three papers presented in this panel:
“Child and Elderly Care in South Korea: Policy Analysis with a Gendered, Care-Focused Computable General Equilibrium Model” by Martin Cicowiez and Hans Lofgren presents the first care-focused and gendered model in the computable general equilibrium literature for Korea that “is built around a social accounting matrix (SAM) that covers non-GDP household services, singles out sectors for child and elderly care, and disaggregates households on the basis on care needs.”
“Care Support Ratios in Korea and the US” by Gretchen S. Donehower and Bongoh Kye takes a holistic view of care by including both paid and unpaid care for all age ranges and “create[s] [care support ratios] to understand the current care market and whether it is sustainable in the future…in two aging populations- Korea and the United States.”
“Towards a Caring and Gender-Equal Economy in South Korea: How much does the regulation of labor market working hours matter?” by Ipek Ilkkaracan and Emel Memis “use[s] a unique time-use survey on care arrangements by couples with small children in order to explore the potential of [the] reduction of full-time market work hours towards [the] narrowing of the gender gaps in paid and unpaid work.”
This blog was contributed by Lucie Prewitt, a research assistant for the CWE-GAM project.
“Shelter in place” mandates in the early stages of the U.S. Covid-19 pandemic required many people to stay home, cook their own meals, school their own children, and entertain themselves. Unpaid work served not only as a social safety net, but also as an automatic stabilizer. While it didn’t dampen fluctuations in official Gross Domestic Product, as did unemployment insurance, it clearly helped stabilize consumption.
Just imagine what would have happened if most people had not had refrigerators, stoves, and computers—or just read reports of the plight of homeless people.
By mid-March 2020, many states and localities shut down restaurants for any services other than take-out. Home-produced meals increased of necessity. Many such meals probably consisted of convenient processed foods that could be popped into a microwave oven, but a renaissance of home cooking also became apparent, along with reliance on long-lasting, easily stored items such as rice and beans. Analysis of Google Search terms showed a sharp spike in questions concerning food preparation and storage. As one newspaper put it, America began baking its heart out. Yeast suddenly became as hard to come by as toilet paper.
In 2018, according to the American Time Use Survey, adult civilian women spent an average of .8 hours a day, and their male counterparts .4 hours a day in meal preparation. How much more did they spend in the months of March and April, and what was the monetary value of this unpaid labor, based on what it would have cost them to hire someone to plan, cook, and clean up? How much did they save on eating-out?
Many childcare centers and schools were closed, leaving parents with responsibility for home-schooling, supervising children, and keeping them from going confinement-crazy. The American Time Use Survey averaged the amount of reported time that married mothers and fathers living with children under the age of 18 spent in primary activities of caring for and helping household children over the 2013-2017 period—an average of 2.6 hours per day for mothers not employed and 1.4 hours for fathers not employed.
Under sequestration, both active care and supervisory care (defined as the time in which an adult reported that a child under the age of 13 “in their care” ) ballooned. How much did these two forms of childcare increase? How much did households save on childcare costs?
Video streaming and gaming increased dramatically, especially during afternoon hours, and people began to rely more heavily on streaming for instruction and exercise as well as entertainment. So, while they spent less money (and less travel time) on entertainment away from home, they substituted forms of entertainment that were probably less expensive, on average. How much less expensive?
Between March and May, average household income plummeted as a result of job furloughs and unemployment. The increase in time devoted to household production buffered this loss to some extent—but without answers to the questions above, we can’t know how much. Most recent impromptu household surveys have focused primarily on women’s unpaid work relative to men’s—an important, but different topic.
For years, I have protested economists’ lack of interest in total consumption—defined as the sum of money expenditures and the consumption of home-produced services.
Let me will repeat one example that I have written about in more detail elsewhere: Compare two couples, each with two small children, each earning $50,000 after taxes. Conventional measures treat them as having exactly the same income. Yet one couple may include an adult earning $50,000 and a full-time homemaker/caregiver, while the other includes two adults earning $25,000 each and obviously has less time to devote to unpaid work. If we assigned any positive value to unpaid work, the first household would obviously be better off in terms of both income and consumption.
Market income is just not a very good indicator of total consumption among households with differing inputs of unpaid work. Also, the value of unpaid work is greater in households with more than one person, because of economies of scale in food preparation and childcare. Standard equivalence scales used to adjust household income for household size and composition completely ignore these issues.
Obviously, the additional unpaid work performed while sheltering in place was a source of great stress, especially for those simultaneously telecommuting, zooming, or otherwise trying to fulfill paid employment responsibilities at home. Yet, it’s hard to deny that this work also “added value,” enabling an important form of social provisioning.
The worst-case scenario for a household with children was almost certainly one in which all adults (e.g. mother and father) were essential workers, required to keep working (often at risk to their health) but unable to work from home. Federal and state agencies tried to provide “resources” for these workers, but no guarantees were forthcoming.
In many cases, one of the adults (probably the mother) was forced to quit or take a leave of absence from paid employment. While new federal legislation gives states flexibility to pay benefits where an individual leaves employment to care for a family member, not all states do so.
Such a policy is effectively a paid family leave—something that most states have shied away from for years, making this country an international outlier. The complexity of the new legislation, plus the difficulty of actually filing for and receiving unemployment benefits, has probably kept take-up pretty low even in states that allow this option.
Just one more reason to consider policies such as federal paid family and sick leaves and a universal basic income that could help the stabilizers known as households do their job.
Original blog published on CARE TALK: FEMINIST AND POLITICAL ECONOMY on May 19th, 2020. See here for the original posting.
Reposted with permission from Dr. Nancy Folbre from University of Massachusetts Amherst and an expert researcher for the Care Work and the Economy Project within the Rethinking Macroeconomics working group.
This brief note raises two issues: First, the widening of gender inequalities in unpaid care work and second, the potential gendered outcomes of rising formal and informal unemployment in the affected sectors in Turkey.
Market production is at a halt, yet women are working overtime
What sustains human life, as we all know, cannot be maintained solely by market purchased goods and services. Our lives are constantly reproduced within households. The overwhelming majority of women are involved in the provisioning of the most indispensable items needed to sustain our lives and enhance their quality.
We are told that economies are experiencing a “sudden stop”. While some businesses temporarily close their doors, there is full capacity production ongoing at our homes. In technical terms, excess capacity in market production is rising, while women are working overtime. Some forms of housework now require more attention and diligence for hygienic purposes than ordinary times. Sterilizing market purchased goods, washing the clothes and cleaning the house more frequently are now necessary. The shutdown of nurseries, kindergartens and schools increased childcare work burden. Adult and elderly care burden also increased. Turkey has banned people aged 65 or older from leaving their homes on March 21 and people aged 20 or younger very recently. These developments significantly increase women’s workload. The family has already been central to the welfare regime of Turkey. Care of children, elderly and people with disabilities have been overly dependent on families. We observe once again, the family-centered welfare regime shifts the care burden onto the families.
The unemployed and informal workers
As of December 2019, prior to the pandemic, nearly 4.3 million people were unemployed. It is assumed that approximately 9-10 million people will be unemployed after the pandemic. The unemployed and their household members–nearly half the population in Turkey—are at serious poverty risk.
“Economic Stability Shield” Package consists mostly of policies that aim to help the firm owners and ignores the most vulnerable segments: the long-term unemployed, first-time job seekers and the recently employed.
The other segment of the population overlooked by the Package is the unregistered or informal workers. More than five million workers, are working informally, and hence without social security, in Turkey.
It is clear that small and medium-sized companies, where informal work is widespread will be more adversely affected by the crisis. Accommodation and food (tourism sector at large), retail trade, and textiles and apparel will be most affected due to the pandemic. We estimate that 650 thousand informal workers in these three sectors are in danger of losing their jobs. In addition, over 700 thousand informal workers from the remaining sectors are estimated to lose their jobs.
The three sectors that are most affected by job losses make up almost a quarter of non-agricultural women’s employment. Even if we assume that there would be no employer discrimination and employers act in accordance with these current rates during layoffs, around 700 thousand women will lose their jobs, and around 190 thousand of those will not have any access to social security benefits since they have been working informally.
Our lives are upside down now and the future does not look bright at all. However, it is not the time to be pessimistic either. As we all know, all inequalities are socially constructed; their elimination will be too. If our struggle to rearrange our lives during and after this epidemic; will be towards more solidarity and towards an egalitarian society, we can start by deciphering all kinds of inequality, discrimination and exploitation inside and outside our homes.
This blog was authored by Emel Memiş, Department of Economics, Ankara University, KEFA and IAFFE member; Murat Koyuncu, Department of Economics, Boğaziçi University and Şemsa Özar, Department of Economics, Boğaziçi University, KEFA member, member and former president of IAFFE