Why Canadians should care about the global care economy

Care work is undervalued both in Canada and around the world — it’s time to bring it into the conversation about women’s empowerment and gender equality, argues Ito Peng.

BY: 

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MARCH 16, 2018
Cleaner
A worker vacuums the ballroom at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, January 4, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

We have witnessed over the last couple of weeks a surge of conversations and activities across Canada and beyond around the issue of gender equality. Along with the federal government’s 2018 budget highlighting pay equity and expanded parental leave, many other events have taken place since the beginning of March, including those that marked International Women’s Day and the latest session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which ran this week in New York.

These events have made people talk and think about gender and gender equality. But one key issue that is not clearly addressed in this conversation, especially in Canada, is the care economy.

‘Care economy’ refers to the sector of economic activities, both paid and unpaid, related to the provision of social and material care. It includes care for children, the elderly, and the disabled, health care, education, and as well, leisure and other personal services, all of which contribute to nurturing and supporting present and future populations.

In Canada, this work is often done by immigrant women, women of colour, and foreign temporary migrant workers. At home and globally, it is still largely considered menial and insignificant and therefore highly undervalued. There are at least three reasons why we should be taking the care economy seriously.

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