Care is essential for the life of each person and for the subsistence of societies. Domestic and care tasks are important (generally unpaid) productive work: it is the sector that contributes the most to the economy (represents 15.9% of our GDP), followed by Industry (13.2%) and Commerce (13%). But, paradoxically, we are still not able to measure the economic value of the resources that families need to produce this essential service. Families –and within them, women– are the ones who carry out the vast majority of care work, aimed at developing the capacities of the new generations.
It is clear that the care provided by families contributes to the development of society. What is not known is how much each household invests to carry it out: there is no indicator that estimates the production costs of care. Faced with this reality, at Cippec we are working on the creation of a Basic Care Basket (CBC) that measures and gives a monetary value to the resources that families need to provide quality care to children –from birth to 16 years old–, and the work they dedicate to that task. The resources considered are goods (food, clothing, housing equipment, among others), services (education, health, transportation, electricity, gas, and water, among others), time to care, income (needed to buy goods and services) and infrastructure (a healthy environment with access to basic services, for example).
The Basic Care Basket offers precise and situated information that drives and justifies investment in such a strategic sector as care. Firstly, because it stimulates the economy. A study carried out by Cippec in 2018 found that extending the coverage of parenting, teaching and care spaces for children between zero and four years of age from 32% to 50% required an investment equivalent to 3.6% of the GDP. This would allow the creation of 1.3 million jobs (teaching, kitchen and cleaning staff, among other tasks). It was estimated that the employment rate would grow by 6.4% and that since 62% of jobs would be occupied by women, the female employment rate would grow by 9.5%. 2% of GDP would be recovered through taxes and the economy as a whole would grow by 5.3%. Along the same lines, a recent study by the International Labor Organization indicates that investment in the care sector generates three times more employment than investment in construction and practically does not demand foreign currency.
Second, it is an investment that closes gender gaps. It is a concrete measure to promote the economic autonomy of women because it transfers part of the unpaid tasks that they carry out at home to the paid sector. In this way, it allows women with care responsibilities to recover time to continue their training and/or work for pay.
The CBC estimates the resources that families use to care and establishes a threshold below which the production of quality care is unfeasible. It takes reference to the Total Basic Basket (the one used to calculate the poverty line) and enriches it. Added to the minimum income set by the Total Basic Basket is the monetary value of the work that households spend caring for, the infrastructure and care services that households need so that the work that they provide for free does not jeopardize the economic autonomy of women or condition the development of the capacities of children and adolescents.
By comparing the resources that families need to care with those they actually have, the CBC makes visible the magnitude and characteristics of the care crisis we are facing.
In these calculations, the CBC takes into account the diversity of family configurations; the territories in which the families live; the number, gender and educational profile of people in a position to provide care resources and those who demand care.
Betting on care is, by all accounts, an intelligent decision. Transferring part of the unpaid care tasks to the paid care sector generates genuine employment, promotes equality between genders, promotes the development of the skills of the new generations and boosts the economy. For all this, at Cippec we are leading a global project to promote the implementation of the Basic Care Basket. It is a useful tool to inform and guide socioeconomic development processes from their foundations, integrating the perspective of those who produce one of the most relevant inputs.
*Executive Director of Cippec.
**Cippec Social Protection Researcher.
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