What is Care Economy? What are the needs of the care economy in post covid society? What are the steps taken by India to promote the care economy? Read further to know more.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) recently published a new report titled “Care at Work: Investing in Care Leave and Services for a More Gender-Equal World of Work,” which urged targeted policy support for the care economy and care work.
The importance of maternity, paternity, and special care leave is emphasized in the research. These leave types enable men and women to balance work and family obligations over the course of their lifetimes.
However, Millions of workers in the world who have family responsibilities lack proper protection and assistance due to persistent and large gaps in care services and legislation.
According to the statistics, 649 million women of reproductive age, or 3 out of every 10 women, resided in 82 nations that did not adhere to ILO Convention 183.
In the 185 nations that were examined for the study, it will take at least 46 years to achieve the bare minimum of maternity leave rights.
This data reveals the relevance of the care economy.
In order to guarantee the right to a healthy old age with dignity and an independent life, long-term care services are also necessary.
What is the Care Economy?
The “care economy” is defined as the activities and relationships that go into addressing the physical, psychological, and emotional needs of adults, children, the elderly, the young, the frail, and the physically fit.
In terms of care policies, including maternity protection, paternity, parental, and other leave policies, as well as childcare and long-term care services, the report presents a global review of country laws and practices.
The term “care work” refers to both direct care activities like feeding a newborn or nursing a sick partner as well as indirect care activities like cooking and cleaning.
Care work, both paid and unpaid, spans a variety of industries, including those in the fields of education, health, and social work, involving professionals such as teachers, nurses, community health workers, social workers, and domestic workers.
Care work, whether direct or indirect, paid or unpaid, is essential for economies and human well-being.
Unpaid caregivers in particular provide dependable, high-quality care as a “public good” from which communities can benefit without having to pay for it.
- In the pandemic, when it became challenging to function without the assistance of care workers, the necessity of care work was further underscored.
- In addition to being essential for day-to-day life, the care economy employs many people and has significant room for expansion.
Significance of Care Economy
Globally, increased spending on care services has the potential to generate 300 million extra jobs, many of which will be held by women.
Paid domestic work has moreover consistently been a major source of remittances for India. Women are more prevalent than men in the care economy.
In turn, this will help progress Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8 and raise female labor force participation.
Care work, both compensated and uncompensated, is crucial to the survival of any social system as well as the economy.
When it became difficult to move on without the assistance of care staff, the pandemic brought to light the essential nature of care work.
Care occupations are less likely to be automated because of their relational nature.
According to the ILO, nations that make investments in both childcare facilities and parental leave laws to reduce the burden on women have greater mother-work-to-population ratios.
But in India, Unpaid care work is associated with labor market disparities, but policymakers have not yet given it enough consideration.
Paid carers who are employees, like domestic helpers and anganwadis in India, often struggle to obtain their rights and benefits.
Issues with India’s care economy
The following are the issues involved.
Despite the necessity of care work, it hasn’t historically received much attention. Two facts make this clear:
1) India lacks a system for properly identifying care economy workers, and
2) Relative to other nations, India’s public spending on the care economy is extremely low (less than 1% of GDP).
Unpaid care is disproportionately burdened on women
Women handle a much bigger proportion of household chores than males. Housewife pay is being proposed as a solution to this disparity, however, this policy could backfire by further entrenching gender roles in caregiving.
Inadequate policy implementation
The Maternity Act of 2017 requires companies to offer childcare services within a certain radius. However, execution is still only superficial in reality.
According to surveys done in 2019, only 49% of employers had creche services in place.
According to reports, non-compliance is widespread because there are no explicit implementation guidelines, punishment clauses, or monitoring.
Inadequate compensation for care providers
Many States do not recognise the 2.5 million women who serve as Anganwadi workers, auxiliary nurse-midwives, and accredited social-health advocates as workers, and they are not paid regular monthly salaries.
The Ministry of Labour and Employment has now been requested by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour (2020) to establish salary criteria for frontline health and care employees.
Water shortages and food insecurity in rural areas have been made worse by climate change, placing an increased care load on women and children. In these situations, excessive and demanding unpaid caregiving efforts might degrade the standard of care provided.
India’s Initiatives Towards Care Economy
- India provides 26 weeks of leave for new mothers as maternity leave, compared to the ILO’s baseline requirement of 14 weeks which is enforced in 120 nations.
- While private sector employees are not subject to any formal policies, central government employees in India are granted 15 days of paternity leave.
- Domestic workers in India are now covered by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act and the minimum wage laws.
- The Labour Bureau is conducting an All-India Survey on Domestic Workers.
The survey aims to estimate the number and proportion of domestic workers at the national and state levels, as well as the percentage distribution of domestic workers in terms of live-in/live-out, formal/informal employment, migrant/non-migrant status, as well as their salaries and other socio-economic characteristics.
- National Program for Health Care for the Elderly (NPHCE) was introduced by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in 2010–11 to address a variety of older patients’ health-related issues. The Program outlines the government’s commitments as they are envisioned under:
- the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)
- National Policy on Older Persons (NPOP), 1999
- the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007
- Identify care providers: By developing a system for identifying care providers, a channel for their attention can be opened. An individual who is designated as a care worker must be given a job card once a formal definition is developed. This job card will assist establish a formal network of carers in addition to enabling a conduit to distribute benefits. The E-Sharm site might be used during the entire procedure.
- Provide Recognition for care workers: Officialization In India, the value of women’s unpaid labour is estimated to be 3.1% of GDP. Recognizing AWWs, ANMs, ASHAs, and domestic help as formal sector employees would enable the GDP to account for their economic contribution.
- Women-sensitive job creation: According to a Women’s Budget Group (2019) analysis, 11 million more jobs, with over a third of them going to women, could be created in the Indian health and care sector with an additional 2% of the GDP. According to the ILO, nations that make investments in both childcare facilities and parental leave laws to lessen the burden on women have greater mother-work-to-population ratios.
- Increased investment: To advance the knowledge of the private sector, increased investment in care infrastructure and services may take the shape of public-private partnerships. By making investments in care infrastructure, women are less likely to experience “occupational downgrading,” which results in reduced pay when they seek flexibility or part-time employment due to childcare commitments
- Making Child Care Leave (CCL) gender-neutral: CCL is given to female employees or male employees who are “single male parents” for a maximum of two years over the course of their employment for taking care of their minor children (up to eighteen years of age).
- 5R Framework: The ILO offers a five-point plan for attaining gender parity in decent care work. The framework encourages the recognition, reduction, and redistribution of unpaid caregiving encourages rewards caretakers with more and better jobs and makes it possible for them to participate in social conversation and collective bargaining.
India’s economy has to be revived, and future growth is anticipated to be more inclusive. Investments in the care economy will not only aid India in achieving its Sustainable Development Goals but also promise to be a fast-growing industry with inclusive growth.
To strengthen the care economy and promote child development, ageing in dignity, and independent living as the population ages, it is necessary to fill up the gaps in current policies and facilities.
A greater commitment to and investment in the care economy, which looks out for society as a whole, is necessary for a human-centred and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 epidemic that benefits employees, employers, and the government.
A more gender-equitable post-COVID economic recovery requires prioritising public investments in care infrastructure and services.
Article Written By: Aryadevi E S