Caring for our young, elderly and vulnerable has been a key part of the social protection system, integrating with the healthcare system, in many countries for many years. A way to respond to the different needs of a person from birth to death, and a way to create better wellbeing and inclusiveness, says Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary in her statement.
But across the last decades governments, the business community and often trade unions as well, started talking about “care economy”. This turned what used to be the right to care into an economic opportunity. Since then the care services have been transformed into an extractive market for the rich few. This commercial model only works for those who can afford it, it's a disaster for those who can't.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic struck and revealed a deep crisis of care.
The question is: Who cares for what? How do we value care?
The sad reality is our current privatized systems, with understaffed and underfunded facilities focused on making profit, is not protecting users and workers. Instead it is causing thousands of needless deaths.
Meanwhile women across the world are left to face an even greater burden of unpaid, unseen care work at home, as well as juggling their jobs, increased stress and other demands.
It's clear we need a new model which puts caring for people ahead of caring for profits, says Rosa Pavanelli on Global Day of Action for Care. Recognising, rewarding, reducing, redistributing and reclaiming care work is the radical and essential method needed to create a system which truly cares for us all.
Who cares? Fixing the care crisis
It's clear we need a new model which puts caring for people ahead of caring for profits.
To get there, it just takes five "Rs":
We must acknowledge that the lockdown and the wider effects of this pandemic aren't felt equally – as schools close, our families grow sick, our elderly need special attention, women overwhelmingly bear the unpaid burden of these duties.
We must ensure decent remuneration, pensions, working conditions and social protection
We must reduce unpaid care work and enable women to make their own decisions about workforce participation. How? Through a massive increase in free and universal public care systems like kindergartens and rest homes.
Care work must be redistributed throughout our society. This means within our households through public policies such as paid parental leave so men are encouraged to do a greater share. But it also means seeing care work not as an individual burden, but as a social good, a productive activity contributing to the national GDP. A stronger public care sector reduces the unpaid work borne by individuals through a collective, professionalized and valued care workforce, designed to break down sexual stereotypes.
And finally : Reclaim
We claim back our public services and reinforce the role of the State in building gender responsive quality care systems
This might all sound impossible. But we can't tackle the care crisis with a reset to the broken system which got us here. We need a bold transformation.
Recognising, rewarding, reducing, redistributing and reclaiming care work is the radical and essential method needed to create a system which truly cares for us all.
Global Unions Statement
Unions and civil society mobilising to demand investments in care for building more inclusive, accessible, resilient, and caring economies.
Joint Statement by ITUC, UNI Global Union, Public Services International, Education International, International Domestic Workers Federation and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing
Urgent action is needed to address the devastating social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. As representatives and supporters of health and care workers worldwide, we demand government action to build more inclusive, accessible, resilient, and caring economies. This can be achieved by adequate investments in care that are directly connected to worker and patient outcomes. Policy initiatives and sectoral bargaining need to be linked as this is the only way to ensure fair wages and decent working conditions for workers across the health and care sectors, and guarantee access to quality public health and care services for all.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the pre-existing frailty of our economies and has deepened structural inequalities across gender, class, and racial lines.
Chronic public under-investment in public health and care systems, a systematic undervaluing of health and care work – predominantly performed by women, and in particular migrant women and women of colour - and failure to invest in professionalisation and training for workers across the health and care sectors are some of the signs of an economic system that has put little value on caring for too long.
The pandemic has underlined the centrality of health and care to our well-being and existence. The need for adequate investment in equitable, quality public health and care systems is more apparent and urgent than ever.
Workers across the health and care sector, informal and formal, in public and private, whether working in hospitals, hospices, care homes, private homes or schools, have been on the frontline of this pandemic and have continued to provide care under the most challenging of circumstances. They deserve decent working conditions and fair pay that reflects their enormous contributions to our societies.
This 29 October, we call on governments to shape a caring economy:
Invest in gender-responsive, quality public health and care – including mental health, childcare, early childhood education, elderly care and other social care services that serve everyone
Ensure decent pay and working conditions, including equal pay for work of equal value, training opportunities for all workers and policy to close gender gaps in labour force participation
Improve staffing levels across health and care systems to protect both workers and care recipients
Ensure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), paid sick leave and access to vaccines for all health and care workers
Ensure equity and non-discrimination in recruitment, retention, access to training and promotion opportunities for workers across the health and care sectors
Ensure that the rights to freedom of association and to collective bargaining are respected for all workers in the health and care sectors, whether in the formal or informal economy, and wherever possible sectoral bargaining is established
Fund universal, gender-responsive social protection accessible by all workers regardless of employment status or migrant status, race, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation, and inclusive of workers in the informal economy
Ensure equitable access to quality public health and care services, including refugees and migrants, regardless of status.