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BOOKS Caring about the consequences of coronavirus

MARJORIE MAYO recommends two publications highlighting the importance of strengthening the care sector in the wake of the pandemic

The Care Manifesto
by The Care Collective
(Verso, £8.99)

 

IN THE wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Care Manifesto’s focus on recognising our mutual interdependence could scarcely be more timely.

We live in a world in which carelessness reigns, the manifesto argues, and although the crisis of care has become particularly acute in recent months with the current pandemic, the causes date back far longer.

They are rooted in neoliberal governments’ pursuit of the interests of finance capital, undermining welfare states and democratic institutions in the process.

Care and care work have been further devalued and marginalised, due in large part to their association with women, the feminine and what have been seen as the “unproductive” caring professions.

The manifesto sets out to turn this situation around, asking what would happen if we were to put care at the very centre — focusing on looking after the emotional as well as the physical needs of others and the nurturing of all that is necessary for the welfare and flourishing of life.

Subsequent chapters go on to explore different approaches to caring beyond the traditional nuclear family, with support by caring communities which draw on previous experiences of the provision of care through mutual support structures.

These need to have backing from progressive public policies, though, rather than being left to paper over the cracks in what remains of the welfare state.

Calling for a progressive politics of state intervention and public ownership, working in partnership with co-operative and community-based initiatives, The Care Manifesto concludes with a wider look at interdependence and sustainability at the global level.

This is a broad-brush approach, raising fundamental questions about care and caring in the contemporary context.

The Women’s Budget Group’s briefing on the case for a care-led recovery from Covid-19 provides a complementary contribution, making the more specific case for investment in care as an economic stimulus.

A carefully researched briefing, submitted to the Women’s Budget Group Commission on a gender-equal economy, like the Care Manifesto it starts from the ways in which the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated Britain’s crisis in care — from the cradle to the grave.

British parents pay the highest childcare costs in Europe, while 1.4 million older people have unmet care needs, and this is without taking account of the situation since the pandemic, raising even further anxieties about the care sector and its future.

The briefing focuses on the scope for investment in care as an excellent way to rapidly stimulate employment in ways that would reduce the gender employment gap.

Any investment in care in the Britain would produce 2.7 times as many jobs as an equivalent investment in construction — investment in the latter being a typical governmental response to the need to create jobs and stimulate the economy as rapidly as possible.

Jobs in the care sector would be more beneficial for women and they would be greener jobs as well. But care workers would need to be better trained and better paid, starting by ensuring that they were all being paid the national living wage.

Powerfully argued and clearly documented, the briefing makes a compelling case for a care-led recovery from Covid-19.

As the pandemic has so clearly demonstrated, the crisis in care affects us all eventually, even if not immediately, and there are important arguments to support this in the briefing, together with the evidence to promote the case for putting care at the centre of recovery strategies for the future.

A free download of A Care-Led Recovery from Coronavirus is available at wbg.org.uk.

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