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Invisible Labor noticed at last

Social Revolution- adjustment to what is now clearly visible

Home | Flashes of Becoming Visible | More flashes | Glaring headlights visibility | Voluntary Blinders- the last gasp resistance to seeing | Social Revolution- adjustment to what is now clearly visible


With all the dilemmas government now faced now that care of the young, sick, handicapped, elderly and dying was recognized as important, there was an impasse in how to proceed.

Though some might have thought there were two options – for women to be in paid work or to all go back home and be caregivers again that was not really the dilemma. That decision had been made long ago in human rights law where people were not to be forced to be anywhere.

It was not for the state to tell women where to serve. There were paid roles.

There were caregiving roles. There were sometimes paid caregiving roles.

The two options were these:

Either the state could do everything it could to help women earn money

and would fund the care roles in their absence – daycare of

the young, care of the sick, care of the elderly, handicapped and dying


The state could do everything it could to recognize both paid roles and care roles wherever they happened. It could help women who earned find

care for those they left behind and it could help men or women

who provide the care themselves, meet their costs.

The options were because now we had the attention of government that a decision must be made. the question was simply which way to go.

And true to form, nations have not agreed on which option to take.

1. emphasis on paid work

Some nations have tried the route of the traditional male paradigm, putting all their money into enabling women to earn. Sweden for decades funded nearly free daycare so women could earn. Quebec in Canada offered nearly free daycare and took funding away from other parenting support in order to fund this universal daycare system.

The pressure to continue on the traditional economics path was huge. It was like an inertia, a huge ship that was hard to steer or turn.

The traditional economy still defined work as only that which was done for pay. If there was such a thing as caregiving, the state could only see it if it was done by paid workers, and to enable paid work.

Home care workers for the sick, handicapped and elderly, childcare workers for the young were all in paid professions so they immediately had visibility and the nod of acceptability that unpaid caregivers still lacked.

Many nations as of 2007 are increasing maternity benefits in both amount and duration and some are tting men take parental time off too. These concessions are not however to value work, but to permit breaks from work.

Daycare movements have sprung up arguing that children need daycare since it is the only location of education possible, or that only it is care or childcare at all. Some activists also say only daycare workers are trained or professionals. These exclusions of rights of unpaid caregivers seem insulting but are perfectly consistent with a traditional economy that says it is not work unless it is paid.

Commercial enterprise has also massively resisted funding all care and wanted to nudge women to work outside the home. Some commercial daycares have set up large chain, highly profitable businesses for care of children, businesses that trade on the stock market.

Some nations have tried to give an illusion of compromise and choice to parents, providing vouchers so they can choose either one daycare or the other, as long s they do chose a daycare. Few parents see this as full choice.

1971 Sweden national childcare policy is developed with expressed goal of parents having paid employment and children getting 3rd party care

1971 Canada The Income Tax Act permits a deduction for costs of childcare only if the caregiver is a nonfamily member and only if the mother is in paid work or in study to get paid work

1983 Canada A Childcare Resource and Research Unit is formed arguing for universal 3rd party are of children, not funding for all children

1986 UK Daycare Trust forms to promote funding of 3rd party care of children

1987 US National Association of Childcare Resource and Referral Agencies forms to promote 3rd party care of children

1995 Denmark At a UN conference in Beijing the Danish government reveals that its universal daycare system has not been successful. Its rates of divorce, suicide, sickness and stress have gone up and it is now offering a years parental leave to be home with a child.

2004 Sweden group ratios in childcare reach levels of 141 for 13 year olds and 1:19 for children aged 35.

2005 Sweden Employment Minister Hans Karlsson says that mothers with parttime paid employment are parttime unemployed He promotes workplace policies to urge women into fulltime paid work

2005 Sweden in response to a UN complaint against tax laws favoring only daycare styles of childrearing, two Swedish counties, Necka and Solentuna agree to pay parents at home for some care of children. A study of federal accounts finds that the state often pays more for the daycare of a family than the mother earns, suggesting it would cost less for the state to fund the woman at home with the child. A Swedish group called Association of the Right of Children to their Parents claims that current tax law violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

2006 OECD report, surveying 3rd party childcare, recommends all nations invest 1% of their GDP on 3rd party care, without parallel funding to parental care

2007 Australia government gives $73 million to set up a National Childcare management system for 3rd party care of children

2007 New Zealand the government announces it will fund 20

hours of free 3rd party early education for preschoolers, money

not paralleled for parental care.

Government, often about 20 years behind the times in responding to the public will, have only lately clued in to the idea that women are competent to earn money. Some in 2007 were still setting up daycares as if that was the newest greatest response to the womens movement, all the while clearly out of sync with polls and practices of the Internet generation.

2. emphasis shared between paid work and unpaid caregiving work

Other nations however, watching some meltdowns in the traditional economic solution, have taken time to look at it a new way. Some countries are promising pensions for homemakers, birth bonuses to encourage having children, income slitting so the care role is valued for itself.

And some nations are funding care itself whether by a third party at a daycare, or by parents or family members. The funding that flows with the person needing care retains dignity for the elderly and choice of the care giver.

1986 German Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia start a monthly allowance program for children with salaries for mothers of children under age 2
1994 Turkey a Mothers Training Program teaches families how to stimulate language development
1996 Italy Homemakers are given the right to a pension at age 57 if they paid 4 years of social security contributions, in order to recognize unpaid care work at home
1996 Hungary a child care grant is given so women can be home with a child till age 3 or to help pay for 3rd party care
1997 Argentina passes a retirement pension plan for housewife
1997 Japan creates a universal child benefit for children under age 3
1998 Belgium has a universal child benefit and income sharing to
recognize the unpaid or lower paid spouse at home
1998 France supports financially both the parent at home and the parent who uses daycare
1998 Austria a child care voucher is discussed as a monthly cheque to parents at home or a voucher for nonparental care costs
1998 Norway a cash grant is given to families whose children are not in daycare
1998 US Family Friendly Tax Relief Act provides $500 per child tax credit for children if the parent is at home or uses kinbased care not daycare.
1999 Finland children who are not in daycare are funded at $4300 per year.
1999 France has a universal child benefit and income sharing as does Ireland
2000 Chile older women are recognized for their unpaid contributions to the family
2000 Germany maternity benefits go to al new mothers not tied to previous paid labor force participation
2001 Germany a Kia card voucher is provided so parents can choose the childcare arrangement they wish and this works as an individual grant
2001 Belgium parents can deducts some costs of care of children in the home not just daycare costs
2002 Australia a baby bonus is initiated with tax rebates for mothers for up to five years.
2003 US child tax credit is increased to $1000 for each child with funding in addition for single parents and parents of adopted children
2003 Singapore a baby bonus of $9,l00 is given for a second child and $18,000 for a third child paid over 6 years to defray costs of having children
2004 Australia a birth bonus is given to new mothers of $2,000 per newborn The birth bonus increase in 2005 and 2008.
2005 France adopts a birth grant policy of $1060 per month for a year to parents of a 3rd child, plus offering a monthly allowance for each child
2006 Belgium the Flemish Family Association operates with 300,000 members to get low cost insurance, baby sitter service and other cost reductions for families with dependent children. It operates in some ways as a union
2006 France birth rate goes up to 1.9 after it pays parents $375 per month per child and provides a universal $1200 baby bonus for a third child
2006 Germany Chancellor Andrea Merkel announces plans for a birth bonus to address the low birth rate of 1.3
2007 Canada Premier Danny Williams in the province of Newfoundland is reelected when he promises a birth bonus in his province.
2007 US California InHome Support Services permits
family members to join the Service Employees International Union and get paid for some of the hours of care the provide to family members who have longterm disabilities. Illinois and Wisconsin also can legally assign care of a child whose parents cannot provide care to a family member of the child and will fund it.
2007 UK Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced that funds wil go directly to the frail elderly now to pick the care style they want

Other nations are noticing economic benefits if state policy recognizes at home career and caregiving activity
2007 Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond has told citizens that homebased careers offer a significant way for Cutting Scotlands carbon footprint


There is a song Dont it always seem to go that you dont know what you ve got til its gone?

Women at home went for centuries unnoticed, unvalued, uncounted, taken for granted. It was only when they were pressured to leave the home that the nation became aware in stunning economic terms how much they had been doing back there after all.

Governments now have noticed. We have their attention. Domestic labor and caregiving are really work.

Now what?

Government has taken off its blinders and noticed, as have economists, legal theorists, medical doctors and sociologists, that the care role really is important after all.

They now can either fund a very costly 3rd party professional service to do it so that women can all earn money elsewhere.

Or the state can recognize the care role itself, not as an obstacle to work but itself as one type of work, and when it recognizes work it can recognize care work too.

The choice is up to governments. The job of women and men is to help them see what would be the fairest solution.

-international recognition of traditional caregiving roles in the home- summary prepared by Beverley Smith
Canadian children's and women's rights activist