Invisible Labor noticed at last
Glaring headlights visibility
C. GLARING HEADLIGHTS VISIBILITY
The occasional glimpses government or the community got that taking care of someone helpless might be economically important
were shortlived, but several crises were developing to bring them to head. Soon the tipping point would be reached,
What was coming to a crossroads were the two dimensions the male paradigm of paid work, coming full throttle against the
traditional female paradigm of caregiving labor.By the simple fact that a person cannot be two places at once, something had
It was, as philosophers say, both a crisis and an opportunity. It challenged societys very definitions of work, productivity,
labor force and its concept of what makes a nation tick.
The crisis arrived in several ways.
1. medical advances and new costs
In earlier years in many nations education and health care were about equivalent budget commitments of government. In
Alberta in Canada, each got a nearly identical share of the budget in 1955 but by the year 2007 the proportion for health
care is over 30% while education has fallen to 17%.
Medical advances have extended life and discoveries and inventions created new technologies to enhance life –
but at a cost. MRI machines, CAT scans, lab tests cost a lot and nations struggled with how to cover these new costs. In
those countries which had espoused a publc health system, paid for by the taxpayer, the bill became the bill of the entire
community, and though shared, still became a greater and greater weight to bear. Government budgets now devoted larger and
larger portions of their expenditures to health care alone – and even then it was not enough. Hospital stays were
so costly that new mothers were urged to go home shortly after giving birth. Though consultations were held to try to decrease
costs through using doctors only for true emergencies and empowering nurses and other nursing practitioners to do more of
the medical roles, more and more aged and seriously ill still needed care.
Governments started to use community care models and try to keep patients out of expensive care, preferably in their own
homes but of course there was a vicious circle to do so. Since governments had urged women out of the home, the idea that
someone, usually a woman, could drop everything and take care of a sick relative at home was simply not as likely as it used
Economist Isabella Bakker noted the irony in Canada, saying that hospitals may have been able to reduce their costs by
sending the sick home early, but they had simply downloaded expenses to the individual household and taken advantage of that
sector of labor that was so often just assumed in the past – the invisible care sector.
1998 Canada Isabella Bakker of York University publishes Unpaid Work and Macroeconomics raising public attention to the
existence of the third level of the economy, the unpaid sector, which is often taken for granted as she puts it, as a well
that is never expected to run dry.
Governments were approached to help with some of the costs of care of the sick, even in their own homes, so they could
be home. And a home care profession developed to provide nurses on call and other paid caregivers. However these workers
were not cheap either, and often were overextended, could stay only briefly and intense 24 hour care still was not affordable
for most households.
The idea presented itself that maybe if a family member were paid something to provide home care, this would be a solution.
Yet government was not arranged to fund family members for caregiving. It reeled at the idea. To fund a family member seemed
to not be at arms length enough, seemed to sully love, and maybe it would cost the state just way too much money. The objections
the state offered were many but the frail elderly, and the handicapped persevered – because they felt so passionately
Autistic children raised huge legal debates in Canada, wanting care in their homes to be funded by government, and for
much of their childhood. A handicapped woman in the Canadian province of BC took her case to the BC Human Rights Tribunal,
saying that if the state was willing to fund her home care by a third party, then why did it forbid her to choose who that
person would be? She wanted it to be her dad. These legal cases raised public attention to caregiving, however briefly.
2. birth dearth
The liberation of women to have control over their childbearing, with birth control rights, enabled them to plan their
pregnancies as they wished. But not really. Since governments had in many cases removed support for costs of raising children,
removed family allowance, removed hcild dependent deductions and reduced financial support and tax recognition to the caregiver
role, fewer couples could afford to have children even if they did want them.
This was not a decision then based on free choice of how many children to have, but based on how many children the state
had made affordable, which was quite a different thing. Women who felt liberated to not have to have babies, were counterbalanced
by women who were heartbroken because they wanted to have babies but could not afford to do so.
Canadas birth rate has gone from 3.0 in 1945, 3.8 in 1955, to 1.5 in 2002. In 1966 there were 5.5 people under 20 for
every senior over 65. In 2002 Stats Canada noted there were now only 2.3 people under 20 for every senior – meaning
a greying of the population and a decline of the tax base
By 2007 Statistics Canada announced that the birth rate had fallen
to 10.68 births per 1000 women. Only where incomes were high was it over 12.8. Money was a key determiner.
2002 US Sylvia Ann Hewlitt writes Baby Hunger admitting her
desire for children and urging young women to not delay childbearing
too long, just for career goals.
The result was a vicious circle. Fewer people were having babies, so after a generation there were fewer adults than
most social programs and tax plans had predicted. The tax base itself was dwindling and any publicly funded social program
like medical care, education, even pensions, that had assumed a birth rate of 22 per 1000 people was now in financial distress.
There were not enough taxpayers to keep the economy going.
Coupled with the medical advances that helped the elderly live longer, the average age of the population got higher and
higher and the proportion of actual taxpayers fell. Some called this demographic shift a birth dearth.
2006 While birth rates remain high in underdeveloped countries,
rates in developed nations fall well below replacement level.
The UN Population Division notes that birth rates per 1000 population in Liberia 49.6 Angola 47.3, Malawi 40.7 Iraq
31.7 India 23.0 However rates in Hong Kong 7.6, Switzerland, Italy, Ukraine 9.2, Canada 10.3, Spain 10.8 Finland, Denmark
11.2,Sweden 11.3 Norway, United Kingdom12 Australia 12.4 United States 14.0 Ireland 15.5are below levels required for
maintaining the tax base.
2007 US the American Association of Retired Persons estimated
that unpaid family caregivers give on average 1 hours per week care
to a senior. The economic value of this care is $350 billion.
2007 Canada CCL survey finds that elder care is on the increase.
20% of Canadians aged 4564 provide some eldercare for 2.3 million
seniors, 67% of car receivers are their parents, 24%
are inlaws and 24% are neighbors or friends
One in six of the caregivers is also a senior.
The short term response of governments was to get more for their money by getting more money from those who were still
there – and taxes went up. Workers were urged to work longer hours, and to not retire so early. Immigration was
encouraged in many nations to provide a quick boost to the economy of more adult taxpayers but as it turned out immigrants
also age and die – so the birth dearth itself was not solved.
As workers reeled in anger to be pressured to not retire as soon, to work longer, to spend less time with family for the
sake of the company – a backlash happened.
3. business costs
Unhappy workers are often absent. Claims of illness increased as workers were not given choices about how much time to
spend with family and felt anxious once in a while be with family anyway. Productivity dropped for those who came in to paid
work but whose hearts were not in the job. A new phenomenon was noted called presenteeism.
The younger generation, those born in the 1970s had a new take on what to expect of life and many of them refused to be
pushed into slots for business or as they called it the man. They wanted more flexible hours, telecommuting, work from home
options and if the boss did not offer those, they left. It was becoming costly to retrain new sets of workers every few months
and businesses started to address the careerfamily balance just because they were forced to do so.
2007 Statistics Canada releases data in June noting that 10% of
Canadians now do some of their paid work from home.
2007 US The Telework Coalition of Washington DC estimates that
25 million Americans telecommute or work from a location other than
the main office at least once a month. The Society for Human Resource Managements notes that 56% of organizations now
offer a telecommuting option
2007 US Small Business Administration estimates that there are 23 million small firms across the US and that 75% of
them have no employees coming in to an office at all; The rise in virtual assistance is part of a trend to operate businesses
from ones own home
4. federal costs
If you have two parts of life that have value and the state makes everybody only do work type a, then b gets neglected.
If b still has to be done, and the state is told it now has to fund it the state gets a very fast lesson in how much it costs
to do b.
Mothers on welfare were urged to get a paid job or do intense volunteer work to earn the right to welfare, since taking
care of a child was not seen as useful work itself. But these workfare policies had a problem since sometimes the state to
help the woman earn a minimum wage job funded the daycare of her children at a cost to the state of more than the woman earned.
It was of negative benefit to the state to subsidize such a losing proposition.
The idea of setting up a daycare space so all children would have access to a spot also now looked financially to government
and the general public. It was like funding an empty restaurant chair and hamburger getting colder and colder waiting for
someone to eat it.
In Sweden where universal daycare was implemented early, taxes were massively increased to cover its costs –
so high in fact that some Swedes rose up in anger. The Swedish Association for Childrens Rights to their Parents formed saying
surely there must be another way to run an economy and suggested that costly daycare not be forced upon the people. This
movement was a quiet voice but it was apparently not just a voice in the wilderness. In 2006 the Swedish government that had
championed compulsory daycare and been in power for decades, suffered electoral defeat.
In Canada the bill of what state funding of all care would cost had been hidden from the public eye, advocates not willing
to admit the hugeness of the bill for what they advocated. The Liberal government claimed to endorse a universal daycare
system but it never did provide complete funding for it. How could it? With 2 million preschoolers and each daycare space
costing $10,000 per child per year, the bill would be $20 billion per year. The state did not have the money. The Liberal
party made a show of promising childcare funding up to $5 billion a year but was so slow to even provide that that daycare
lobbyists expressed a code blue crisis.. Clearly the largesse had its shadowy edges. It was creating two tiers, winners and
losers, and funding some lifestyle not others.
2004 Canada Economists Cleveland and Krashinsky envisages a system where daycare workers earn $26,000$35,000 annually
while their assistants earn $18,000$ 24,000 annually and directors earn $30,000. $50,000 Financing Early Learning. The writers
say staff compensation levels will and should rise from current low levels Financing Early Learning
2004 Canada Martha Friendly in a childcare research study says. a national child care system would require a doubling
of current spending over the next 10 to 15 years
Activists made the case that if you invest in daycare, which was now renamed early childhood education, you would save
money later. It was an investment theory arguing that for every $2 spent now on children, there is a savings down the road
of $7, because children well raised do not cost the state money with costly juvenile justice, health care or education dropout
services. The argument of investing in children had undeniable validity but only because any early education is good. To
assume it happens only in daycare was a logical leap past that.
The cost to government and the cost to the individual were ironically different where care of children was concerned and
traditional economists tended to only notice cost to the state. If you raised a child in a government daycare much of the
day, the community funded most the care. The province of Quebec for instance had parents pay only $5 for care that cost about
$32 a day the general taxpayer paying the rest. This mean daycare was affordable to parents, but costly to the state. Quebec
found that even at that, the system was still too much for the state, so the parents were asked to pay $7 a day.
If parents provided care of the child at home, with relatives, tagteam parenting or with homebased offices the cost to
the state was negligible –but the cost to the individual household was huge. Economists however considered this
arrangement to have no childcare costs at all to the state – so in essence free.
With no subsidy or help with costs of heat, light, toys, food, early learning or staffing costs, parents struggled along
trying to pay all the bills themselves. But their work was not just unpaid. It was reverse paid. It cost them to have a parent
at home, usually in salary sacrifice and opportunity cost. With a drop in any federal funding, birth allowance, family allowance
or universal child deduction, people had to dip into savings and get loans just to stay afloat. Yet that arrangement was deemed
by government to have no child care costs.
As costs of care of the handicapped and elderly increased, many of those needing care had to be moved to institutional
settings, again at huge cost. Advocates for professional paid caregiving assumed that these costs should be borne completely
or at least heavily subsidized by the state, again creating a huge financial impasse from which governments could barely escape.
5government labor policy is criticized for inequalities
In many countries women were now asking for longer and paid maternity benefits. Child health experts had researched benefits
of breastfeeding for 12 years and of parent child bonding for emotional attachment of the child to an adult. The case for
maternity leave won many advocates and eventually most governments were providing longer maternity leaves. If a relative
was dying, workers also were demanding personal leave, time off to provide care of the dying, and policies of palliative care
leave were also set in place.
These humane policies trying to blend recognition of the paid role and of the caregiving role were welcomed by those who
rushed to use them. But it was noticed by others that the door to qualify for these benefits was a very narrow door.
The time off was viewed in male paradigm terms from the traditional economy, so care of a newborn or someone dying was
not work time but leave – like a sailors vacation. It was time off with all the connotations of holiday, leisure
and self indulgence that had always tagged along unfairly with the perception of the care role.
And now women who had education and high level skills to clue in to inequalities noticed the oddity and expressed their
anger over it.
To qualify for benefits in Canada for instance for maternity, parental leave or palliative care leave, you had to meet
criteria established for an unemployed person – you had to have put in enough time earning that you now deserved
some time off. You had to have won the right to this holiday and it was administered in the same way to those who were laid
off from a job, downsized, subject to medical distress or other jobinterruptions beyond their own control.
The qualifiers excluded most caregivers, ironically. To have set some arbitrary number of paid hours the preceding year
600 in Canada meant that those whose paid work history was outside those strict limits were out of luck. Maternity benefits
in Canada were denied to mothers whose paid work last year was 599 hour,. to those whose paid work was 700 hours but at two
jobs each 350 hours, and to mothers who were home with difficult pregnancies or whose paid work the preceding 10 years had
been massively contributing to the employment insurance plan but who last year did not happen to put in the 600 hours. Maternity
benefits were also denied new mothers who were home with another baby, who were selfemployed or who were employers. The fact
maternity benefits were paid at a basic level dependent on earned income also created inequalities so that wealthier women
got more money than did the poor, a policy rather the reverse of recognition of financial need. To add to the inequality,
some companies topped up the government benefits to nearly full or full salary while other employers did not. creating along
the way therefore several tiers of wealth and poverty among new mothers. And many women objected to this as unequal benefit
under the law and to the unequal funding of children.
Palliative care programs were equally criticized not because they provided money, which was welcome, but because the criteria
were deemed illogical.. You qualified for this money by earning last year and this meant that if you were home much of last
year to care for someone seriously ill, that would disqualify you from the help. A past record of providing care of the dying
was a main disqualifier for getting help to care for the dying.
Activists complained that the benefits set up for care roles were based on not being a caregiver. Even though a working
engineer was defined by engineering work, to be called a working mother you had to be doing anything but mothering, To qualify
for funding for care of the child, you must not be providing care of a child yourself, and you must prove with a receipt that
you hired someone else to do it.
In Canada funding for the care role also was tied to household income, a criterion many also felt unfair. A female doctor
does not have her salary reduced because her spouse is a highly paid accountant. Yet a caregiver spouse was expected to get
less child tax benefit, less pension, less deduction for childrens costs, based entirely on how much her spouse earned.
What recognition there was for caregiving seemed a lot like getting benefits for apples based on proof you were an orange.
6 medical costs of ignoring the caregiving role
A person who owns a boat can park it and ignore it for weeks or months but not so the owner of a horse. The horse needs
daily care and if the person cannot provide it directly he is obliged to pay someone else to do it. However the state may
not have any particular benefit from the care of the boat or the horse.
The same could not be said of care of children however. The care needs of children or the frail elderly are 247 and children
cannot be neglected without risk of serious harm. Most nations have made child neglect and elder abuse criminal offenses.So
if you were punished for not doing it, would it not be fair to value doing it? In some nations the laws seemed like a loselose.
This impasse in peoples personal lives was linked to considerable stress.
Anxiety and depression levels among women skyrocketed.
The receivers of these care shifts were also upset. Depression among the elderly surfaced in more and more medical research.
Children were being treated for high levels of anxiety, depression and behavior disorders. Some doctors were prescribing
mood drugs for the very young to calm them. Labels for new kinds of disorders abounded, from attention deficit to hyperactivity,
to oppositionaldefiant.As kids became teens, doctors were also noticing a detachment from adults, a mistrust and an attachment
to peers instead, sometimes associated with gangs.
2003 Canada Marshall Korenblum of the Hincks Dellcrest Centre in Toronto observed that over the past five years of his
20 year child psychiatry practice, more and more families are seeking help for children with clinical depression. He notes
that depression is even increasing among preschoolers. Depression in children aged 12 and under is estimated at 13% of the
2003 Canada GPC Research on behalf of Health Canada has released Dec 17 2003, results of its study of 1253 teens aged
12 –19 finding that 34% said they had tried marijuana more than once, one in four smoked it at least once a week
and 8% smoked it daily. The study also found that 14 % said they drank alcohol regularly and 19% smoked cigarettes regularly..
2004 UK Liz Attenborough of the National Literary Trust in the UK has published a study called Talk to Your Baby finding
that in earlier times it was rare to have a grade one child who had language development problems but that nowadays such problems
are common. Some blame the busy lives of parents, the high use of TV and radio to substitute for actual conversation and
the parental attitude that expensive toys may replace time. Attenborough has said Parents dont realize that children would
rather have their time than something flashy
2005 Canada Dr. Angelo Simone of the Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga expressed alarm at the growing incidence
of hypertension n children. It is unusual to even suspect a child may have high blood pressure but Simone is now finding children
with the problem even as young as age 8.
2007 UK The institute of Child Health at University College in London released results of a study of over 13,00 children
finding that childhood obesity is not linked to poverty as much as it is to presence or absence of the parent.
Though each of these troubling conditions among children and young people was treated as a particular disorder with its
own pill. counseling or diet, the common thread of feeling neglected was becoming evident. Teens were turning to each other
for comfort with early sexual activity, were turning to shopping for amusement, much to the delight of commercial operations,
or were turning to drugs and alcohol for easy escapes from their sadness.
Though an individual household may experience shock, embarrassment and distress to see a child experiencing such dilemmas,
the community itself was starting to notice the costs it bore too – with vandalism, theft, drugrelated crime, violence
escalating on the streets.
The idea that children and teens need more attention was easy to endorse.
The question of what type of attention was however pivotal. Those who argued that daycare should extend past age 12,
that teens should also be supervised more in group camps and activities might seem to address the problems and keep them busy
and off the streets. But teens and children being human, it was also evident that they needed much more than supervision by
paid watchers. Many felt that what they needed all along had been and still was, care by someone who loved them. It was
something governments did not have a category or column for – not yet.
1980 Canada A Senate committee finds that two factors reduce the risk of a child entering the criminal justice system
and these are that before age 3 the child is cared for by the same person not a series of changing caregivers and second,
that the caregiver be someone with an emotional attachment to the child Child at Risk
7 .childcare as a profession
Another way in which a crisis point was reached was in the definition of good care of a child. Originally childcare facilities
had been set up so women could earn and it was not necessary to have them be anything more than safe locations where the child
would play and suffer no harm. The idea that care of a child also should involve skill development, language stimulation,
and attention to the mind had occurred many times in history but now was also taking hold as an obligation of society. Children
should be cared for yes, but parents entrusting their young to the state funded care facility also wanted to make sure the
care was high quality though the terms were rarely defined clearly.
It turned out that many people liked to work with children and nurture babies but day after day exposure to many large
groups of crying toddlers and preschoolers made a lot rethink the career choice. Those who stayed wanted recognition of how
hard the role was, how demanding, how important to society – and they wanted good pay for doing it.
They also wanted standards for what to teach, some identification of what this early education should be that they were
to provide, and for that they wanted training – and funding for the training.
With only low wages for daycare workers, there was a constant staff turnover, leading to not only high retraining costs
for daycare owners, but also and more troubling, huge unpredictability and instability for young children. Research that
had shown that children can thrive with a nonparental caregiver also had noted that this should be the same person for 3 consecutive
years not a changing sea of faces. If daycare facilities frequently changed staff, the childs sense of stability was at
risk and he or she may not attach to any adult, with troubling emotional consequences for life. It served everyones interest
to ensure that daycare staff were well enough paid that they stayed at the job, and that they were competent.
But this demand for job stability, for job recognition as a profession, and for high pay with pension and medical dental
benefits, created two new dilemmas. First, government was caught in a catch 22. If it paid daycare staff enough to keep them
happy, its costs would go even higher and it would have to raise taxes even more, incurring the wrath of voters.
2004 Canada Paul Moist in the Financial Post writes The only way to deliver quality care is to hire highly trained, caring
workers. You have to pay them well to keep them
2004 Canada The Child Care Human Resrouces Sector Council says funding must be increased for daycare to improve the skills
and qualifications of the workforce, make child care an attractive and viable career choice
2005 Canada.Economists argue in The Benefits and Costs of High
Quality Childcare that the jobs must be both pleasant and permanent ones and adds that The licensed child care sector
can be a significant source of good and reasonably permanent jobs in our country
The second problem was both logical and practical. If care of a child was now deemed to be a useful role in society and
the caregiver a working professional, then by job description this title would actually then apply to caregivers wherever
they were – at the daycare or not. Recognition for the role of caregiver would raise the social status and possibly
the income potential of babysitters, nannies, and by implication even mothers or fathers at home who gave up other income
to provide care of a child. Most professions are defined not by who does the roles but by the roles themselves in a job description.
If it is work to change and feed a baby when a daycare workers does it, it is no less work when mom or dad does it.
This implication however deeply troubled government –for to recognize caregiving roles in the home was a revolutionary
concept in redefining working mother , working couple, and work itself. Most governments balked at the idea but kept being
reminded of the movement..
8. new paid work technologies and the blending of care and earning roles
The Internet and broad based communication networks had massively changed how paid work was done anyway. Many employers
were finding that it cost them less time in office space, commute time and overhead if they permitted some employees to do
their paid work from home. Many adults found that customers did not know or care where an email was sent from and it was
not hard to run a business from home and make money, all the while tending your own children.
2005 Canada Statistics Canada reveals that the number
of Canadians who are selfemployed is 15.6% of
the paid labor force.
Old assumptions were falling by the wayside. No longer was it accurate that women who earned worked 9 to 5 and needed
daycare only weekdays during those hours. In fact many women earned but did not use daycare at all. They may be selfemployed
or work from home or telecommute. Many women did earn and outside the home, but they did so evenings, weekends or in tagteam
with the spouse or another family member, so no daycare was needed. Some parents earned only during school hours so no disruption
of the childs life was made. So even in an economy biased towards favoring only paid labor, the old idea that the workday
was 9 to 5 was severely out of date .
For a time daycares tried to adjust to this new situation. Maybe they should be open around the clock for those parents
who earned evenings. Maybe they should be open in rural areas for those who operate farms in the early morning. But problems
arose out of sheer practicality. To drive a child a long distance to a small town daycare may cost more than the woman would
earn while away from the child. To set up available daycares on every street corner, to reduce the commute costs of time
and gas, would be prohibitively expensive for government to establish. It was becoming evident that funding the daycare might
simply be less efficient than funding the child, wherever the child was.
With growing awareness of human rights and rights of choice in general, many people born in the 1970s were demanding freedom
to follow their own lifestyle preference. By polls they admitted a preference not just to earn but also to spend time with
family, and for some the desire to spend time with children was so important the state should value it. Since polls represent
voters, governments were pressured to listen.
1997 Canada Ontario Compas poll – 92% of Ontarians believe that parents themselves are the best childcare providers
for infants and preschoolers
1999 Canadian Policy Research Network – a majority of parents want economic supports for parents during the
first 3 years of life so a parent can have the option of being home with the kids
2000 Canada Angus Reid 77% of Canadians want parents not the state to provide care of the children.
2002 Canada Macleans magazine survey – 97% of parents said raising children is a satisfying experience. 63%
of fathers and 73% of mothers said that if they could afford it they would prefer to have a parent home with the children
rather than at paid work.
2002 Canada Strategic Counsel finds that ¾ of Canadians would raise their children themselves at home if they could
and almost 90% of parents asked would prefer to have one parent at home with the children but could not afford that option.
2007 Australia Care for Kids surveys 1600 parents finding that nearly 67% of women asked returned to paid work due to
financial necessity not by preference.
Votes often confirmed the strong will of people to have time with family and to value caregiving not just paid work.
Canadas Liberal government in fact lost an election in 2006 when the opposition party promised that instead of funding only
daycare it would fund all children, wherever they were. Newfoundlands premier Danny Williams in 2007 won an election\promising
a baby bonus for every new child born in his province.
The ADQ party in Quebec surged to being a powerful force when it promised to value care of a child wherever the child
But some politicians refused to change their policy. MP Ken Dryden when told about poll results, hinted that of course
women would prefer not to have to earn but earning was the new reality and anything else was like wanting to eat ice cream
every day unreasonable to ask.
2005 Canada When a survey showed that many mothers in paid
labor would prefer to be home with their children, MP Ken Dryden
reacted If we asked them if they would like ice cream once a week
and chocolate twice a day , about the same percentage would say the
10. rise of mothers movements
There have been many mothers movements in history, some using mothers as a network to get votes or political rights, others
asking for recognition of mothering itself.
However the new movement was different in that it was not just saying mothers are nice people or selfless saints but it
was also now saying they were liberated gutsy groundbreaking women, doing essential and vital work in the economy.
1970 Sweden a Family Campaign petition of 70,000 names protests
government policy of favoring daycare use over family childrearing
The petition is ignored.
1977 US National Organization for Women picks as president Eleanor Cutri, a fulltime homemaker. A pro homemakers movement
called the Martha Movement begins in the US arguing for wages for housework
1978 Canada Margaret Eichler in The Unpaid work of Homemakers argues that mothers be paid a salary whether they work
in or outside of the home. She says society has a responsibility to help with costs of rearing children so women can decide
whether to participate or not in paid labor.
1983 US International Moms Clubs form to support the work of
taking care of children
1984 Canada Mothers are Women MAW forms in Ottawa to advocate for mothers at home taking care of children and to increase
government and public support for motherwork
1984 US Family & Home Network starts to support mothers who
do caregiving work at home
1985 The International Women Count Network forms linking 22
countries and uniting 2000 nongovernment organizations to measure
and value unwaged work
1985 The UN holds its third World Conference on Women in Nairobi
asking that unwaged work in agriculture, food production,
reproduction and household activities be included in the GDP of every
1986 Canada The head of Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Sylvia Gold says womens contribution to society should
be recognized whether their work is in the paid labor force or at home
1987 Ireland A pirate radio station run by Margarettea DArcy calls
for a womens strike to recognize womens unpaid contribution to
1992 Quebec group AFEAS presents a petition to government asking for funding for all children in or out of daycare. They
also ask that
athome caregivers be included in the provincial pension plan
1993 Canada womens groups unite to conduct a Work is work is
work campaign to have unpaid work included in the national census
1993 US Theresa Funicella forms Caregiver Credit and in a book Tyrannyof Kindness urges cash support for mothers.
1997 US Mocha Moms forms to support women who spend time
at home taking care of children
2002 Ireland the Women in the Home organization has over a million members
In Canada a homemaker, Carol Lees, was offended when a government census form said If you have been a homemaker all your
life, indicate never worked. She refused to sign such a form, risked a jail sentence for noncompliance and pressured her government
through humiliating it, to hold a conference about unpaid labor.
Though some womens groups of the seventies equated having babies with the problem, and preferred to focus only babies
on career, feminist writers were now often saying that mothering was an important role many women did want –and
feminist rhetoric must include valuing it.
The first push to say women could have it all and be both mothers and fulltime paid CEOS simultaneously was proving for
most women not very realistic, unless there was a very supportive and often athome spouse. But the second option became much
more a new mantra that women could have it all, but not all at once.
To say this however was itself revolutionary because it was not asking women to take a back seat for a few years while
the children were young. It was asking government instead to value the roles women had, at home or in paid work, fully, at
all points of a womens life.
Governments were not ready for such a movement but the message was not to be silenced.
Feminism has also shifted. Daughters of the 70s feminists were not quite the businesssuit aficionados some had assumed
they should be. Some wanted to be sexually alluring anyway and some even wanted to be domestic.
There has also been a rising interest in what roles still happened in the home. A homemade cookie became practically unheard
of and by its rarity was cherished. Where cooks at home for a time tried to imitate gourmet restaurant chefs, there was a
movement now for restaurants to try to make meals like homemade with real ingredients, fresh food, freshly baked. This new
interest in domesticity extended not only to restaurants offering beans, macaroni and milkshakes served in oldfashioned dispensers
but also to an new interest in domesticity itself. The desire to have a comfortable cozy home with Martha Stewart attention
to detail of entertaining, decorating and valuing the home has surprised some observers. In 2007 there was a new interest
not in returning home but in being able to be home or at paid work as the mood strikes, with equal respect.
11. economists recognize unpaid work
Though historically there had been occasional token admission that women also did some work at home, consistent theories
about it were few.
1842 Britain William Beveridge observed that women in the
home are doing vital service by caring for children or the elderly
1881 US Susan B. Anthony observes that women have been the greatest unpaid laborers in the world
1898 Charlotte Perkins Gilman argues in Women and Economics thatthe labor of women in the home enables men to produce
more wealth and such work therefore is an economic factor in society.
1915 US Theodore Youmans of the Womans Suffrage Association argues that all property laws that assume women are supported
by their husbands are abominable and insists that womens own intense work deserves its own recognition
1916 Canada Marjory MacMurchy in The Woman Bless Her argues that housework has economic as well as social value.
1920 Canada Dr. Augusta Stowe Gullen in Should Husbands Pay Their Wives argues that a mans earning capacity already depends
on the work of the homemaker as a business partner and this work helps him produce wealth.
1960 Canada The Carter Royal Commission on Taxation recommends that the work of the unpaid spouse caregiver at home be
recognized through a household based tax but it is not enacted
1969 Margaret Benston in The Political Economy of Womens Liberation says that the unpaid work of women at home must be
recognized and when a man is paid his wage, the salary buys the labor of two people.
1970 Canada The Royal Commission on the Status of Women recommends that the family be the basis of taxation to recognize
the unpaid work of a caregiver spouse. It is not enacted.
1970 US Daniel Patrick Moynihan in The Politics of Guaranteed Income argues that money be paid to mothers of small children
at home not as welfare with the stigma of welfare but as a mothers pension payment for services performed. It is not implemented
1971 Canada Statistics Canada estimates that household work represents 41% of the Gross domestic Product, were it actually
1978 US John Kenneth Galbraith in Almost Everyones Guide to
Economics writes Economists would get a very sudden increase
in the GNP by discovering and including the unpaid labor of women
1980 UN calculations show that women do 2/3 of the worlds
work, albeit for 510% of the income and 1% of the assets.
1988 New Zealand economist Marilyn Waring in If Women Countedargues that unpaid contributions of women in housework,
caregiving and volunteer work should be included in economic tallies
1995 The UN holds a Conference on Women at Beijing China and
181 member nations sign the Platform for Action to begin to tally
1995 UN Human Development Report announces its survey that womens unpaid work is worth $11 trillion annually and Dr.
Mahbub ul Huq observes There is an unwritten conspiracy on a global scale to undervalue womenswork and contributions to society
Traditional economics was still not budging in how it defined work but more and more economists were breaking from the
pack. Feminist economists made strong cases for the inclusion of unpaid labor as part of national economies. Marilyn Waring
in New Zealand argued for a redefinition of work and for inclusion of caregiving labor in national accounts, even at the UN.
Dr. Mary Mellor in the UK, Dr. Herman Daly in the US, Dr. Isabella Bakker in Canada joined other economists in redefining
what is normally counted as productivity, as good for a country. Many noticed flaws of traditional economics that if only
money production and flow are counted, having an oil spill or crime wave were then called good, because they generatedmore
jobs to combat them. New views of economies notice what was originally taken for granted, like clean air, pristine forests,
clean water, and happy healthy children – all technically of no monetary value – but of vital value to
a nations future and wellbeing.
New indices were now suggested instead of GDP
2006 Canada Dr. Mark Anielski recommends measures of economic progress that include not just money but also social capital
of health of children, natural capital of a clean environment and human capital as human relationships.
2007 – Canada GPI Atlantic makes a social survey measuring the Genuine Progress Index to include what GDP often
omits health care access, democratic rights, mental and physical health., the value of unpaid labor.
In 2007 there has also been a call for a slowdown in the rush to produce and make money. The slow down movement found
aficionados of slow cooking, meditation, spas, and even of economic thought such as the book Workers of the World Relax.
The idea that there is more to life than that male paradigm of earning income was noted on many fronts now, legal, feminist,
medical, and even economic.
2007 Timothy Ferriss writes The 4 Hour Workweek urging people to do paid work more intensely and efficiently but also
Paid work hours per week, on average are too high he believes at
42.8 hours in the US, 41.7 hours in Japan and 39.5 hours in Britain.
In some ways the recognition of unpaid labor in an economy posed the most difficult hurdle of all because it was actually
the start of the problem. Unpaid labor had never not existed – it has been there all along, just unnoticed. And
so to open the eyes of economists to it, to take off the blinders and give them full sight made a shocking glare of light.
It was not discovering a new source of income for government. It was discovering what has always been there.
Women doing care roles at home saved the state billions because it did not have to pay them and it still got new children
each generation, healthy children tended through development, healthy adult workers tended through illness, and elderly former
workers, nurtured though aging. It got all this service free, and what some have noticed is that women who did the work,
not only were ignored as doing something of value, but had to pay tax as if they were burdens. These womens tax rate was more
like 100% were one to realize they gave everything they had to society.
It was a hard thing to admit, partly for fear of a huge class action readjustment suit. But some governments in small
ways now were taking this action through pensions for homemakers or for allowance of pension increase or tax reduction based
on the caregiving work.
2006 Canada passed a law to permit household based tax
for those on pensions. A key reason cited at a public pension
conference by activists was to recognize the caregiving of
the lower earning or unpaid spouse for much of her life.