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Getting Serious About Supporting The Care Economy

Context

Care Work is vital for economies and India needs to have an action plan with coordinated policies which helps its care economy bloom.

Relevance

GS-III: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

Dimensions of the Article

  • Policy Ignorance
  • Benefits down the line
  • Maternity and Child Care
  • Domestic Workers
  • Care Economy: A public good
  • Way Forward

Policy Ignorance

  • Immense contribution of women in all spheres of life is high undervalued and hardly rewarded.
  • Evident in care work – both paid and unpaid.
  • Care Work encompasses direct activities such as feeding a baby, nursing an ill partner or indirect activities like cooking, cleaning etc.
  • Unpaid Care Work is directly linked to labour market inequalities but has not received enough policy attention.
  • Many care workers struggle for rights and entitlements as workers.
  • Though SDGs and ILO in its Centenary Declaration has included Care Economy, the investment in this has not matched the pace.
  • ILO has brought out its new report titled – ‘Care at Work: Investing in care leave and services for a more gender-equal world of work’

Benefits down the line

  • Report highlights the importance of maternity, paternity, and special care leave, which help balance women’s and men’s work and family responsibilities throughout their lives.
  • It demonstrates that workplaces that provide time, income security and space for undertaking care services such as breastfeeding, enable positive nutrition and health outcomes.
  • Bridging the gaps in current policies and service provisions to nurture childcare and elderly care services will deliver the benefits of child development, aging in dignity and independent living as the population grows older and also generate more and better employment opportunities.

Maternity and Child Care

  • Maternity leave is a universal human and labour right. Yet, it remains unfulfilled across countries, leaving millions of workers with family responsibilities without adequate protection and support.
  • India fares better than its peers in offering 26 weeks of maternity leave, against the ILO’s standard mandate of 14 weeks that exists in 120 countries but this is extended only to formally employed women while 89% is employed in informal sector.
  • Paternity leave is recognised as an enabler for both mothers and fathers to better balance work and family responsibilities, it is not provided in many countries.
  • The average paternity leave is nine days, which further exacerbates inequity.
  • Access to quality and affordable care services such as childcare, elderly care and care for people with disabilities is a challenge, workers with family responsibilities face globally.
  • Though Creche facilities have been mandated their implementation remains weak.
  • Working conditions of care workers are another critical gap to address where they need to be recognised as professionals.

Domestic Workers

  • Domestic Workers became ad hoc care workers during the novel coronavirus pandemic without adequate social or health protection measures.
  • 26 lakh of the 39 lakh domestic workers in India are female. While important developments have extended formal coverage to domestic workers in India, such as the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act and the minimum wage schedule in many States, more efforts are required to ensure decent work for them.
  • Recognising care workers and promoting decent work for all, including for domestic and childcare workers are also necessary for India to achieve the SDGs which have a principle of ‘leave no one behind’

Care Economy: A public good

  • India needs to treat Care Economy as a public good and it needs to increase the share of spending of its GDP which currently stands at 1%.
  • in consultation with employers’ and workers’ organisations and the relevant stakeholders, the Government needs to conceptualise a strategy and action plan for improved care policies, care service provisions and decent working conditions for care workers.
  • The ILO proposes a 5R framework for decent care work centred around achieving gender equality. The framework urges the Recognition, Reduction, and Redistribution of unpaid care work, promotes Rewarding care workers with more and decent work, and enables their Representation in social dialogue and collective bargaining.

Way Forward

Greater investment in care services can create an additional 300 million jobs globally, many of which will be for women. In turn this will help increase female labour force participation and advance Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8 which is to ‘promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’.

Source – The Hindu

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October 2022
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