Written by: Isabel Guerrero

Last week a group of influential women called for a Marshall Plan for Moms during the first 100 days of the Biden administration, suggesting the creation of a task force to devise and oversee the implementation of such a plan.  A Marshall Plan for Moms would include providing mothers with basic income, policies addressing parental leave, affordable childcare, and pay equity to support working women.  In a recent interview with CNN Dinero, Xavier Serbia asked for my views on this proposal. 

It is a well-known fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has not only exposed the critical role that women play in our economy, but also revealed the cracks in our system regarding the role of women.  First, the stay-at-home orders have increased the burden of care and fall disproportionately on the woman in the household: children schooling from home, older family members and those infected with COVID-19 requiring care.  Second, women have left the formal work force four times as much as men, related partly to increased responsibilities at home, but also because the drop-in economic activity has affected jobs in restaurants, travel, and tourism, which are largely employed by women.

I think a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic offers the opportunity for a new social contract with the care takers in our economy.  In a world where Artificial Intelligence replaces many of the existing jobs, creativity and caretaking are the two skills that will not be replaced by robots, making this a long-term necessity.

We need to put the Care Economy at the center of our attention.  This involves measuring, regulating, and implementing policies to support it—just like we do with education, healthcare, and social security.  I think UN Women is right on the money calling for a three-pronged approach: Recognize, Redistribute, and Reduce.  What does this mean? Recognizing is about highlighting the huge value caretaking holds for the functioning of the economy.  The fact that it is mostly done in the home has made it invisible, a factor that needs to be corrected.  Colombia is a promising example, with their effort to measure all unpaid work and include it in national accounts.  Next, redistributing is about achieving greater balance in the responsibilities of men at women at home.  Finally, reducing is about providing support to basic care needs through a system that involves the private sector, the government, and the community as part of the infrastructure for caregiving.[1]

While the call for the Marshall Plan for Moms does not have a lot of concrete suggestions yet, I think this is the moment to think about the Care Economy as an essential part of our economic and social well-being and as such, making it visible, valuing its real contribution to society, and   providing the regulatory and budget infrastructure to thrive and protect the many women (and men) that provide care.

[1] Cuidades en America Latina y el Caribe en tiempos de COVID.  ONU mujeres, Julio Bango, Julio 2020