How do we address the care crisis now?

In Chile, up to now, there is no law that establishes that care is a right that is acquired from the time we are born until we die. In Latin America, in fact, only Uruguay has a national care system that recognizes that it is both a right and a guaranteed social function, which facilitates the creation of a model of shared responsibility between families, the State, the community and the sector. private.

The local scene, on the other hand, is very different; there is the Chile Cuida program, promoted by the Ministry of Social Development and Family during the second government of Michelle Bachelet, which seeks to accompany and support people in a situation of dependency and their caregivers, but in general terms, care work – so fundamental in the integral development of societies and that correspond, together with domestic work, to 20% of the expanded GDP – have been a matter omitted at the constitutional level and rather have been relegated to the private sphere. They have not been recognized or valued, and continue to fall almost exclusively on women.

That is why feminist organizations have worked hard to show that what we are facing today is a profound care crisis, whose victims, at all levels, have been and continue to be women. Situation that was even more exacerbated after the pandemic.

And it is that the figures thus demonstrate it; the study Covid-19 and the Gender Gap in Work Hourspublished at the beginning of the health crisis in the specialized media Gender, Work & Organization, quickly realized that in heterosexual couples with children under 13 years of age, in which both had a job with similar conditions, it was the mothers who had to reduce their working hours four to five times more than their fathers, thus increasing the gender gap in the number of hours dedicated to paid work by 20 to 50%.

In Chile, the study X-ray to man zerocarried out by the UC Center for Surveys and Longitudinal Studies in conjunction with UN Women and the Ministry of Women and Gender Equity, revealed, among other surprising data, that during the first months of the pandemic, 71% of men had dedicated 0 hours a week to accompanying their sons and daughters in school tasks.

Before the pandemic, the figures were equally worrying: according to the CASEN survey carried out in 2017, 19.4% of Chilean women over the age of 15 were out of the labor force for reasons of care or housework, while only 0.6% of men were inactive for these reasons. If we add to this that international reports show that women and girls over the age of 15 around the world dedicate 12.5 billion hours a day to unpaid care work, which is equivalent –according to calculations in an Oxfam report International of 2020 – at a monetary value of 10.8 billion dollars a year, it becomes unavoidable to make this a central issue in the constitutional debate.

An example of this is that there were more than 14 care initiatives presented in the Constitutional Convention, five of which were collected through citizen participation mechanisms. Finally, and recognizing the importance of this matter, it was stated in Article 49 of the proposed text that ‘the state recognizes that domestic and care work are socially necessary and indispensable jobs for the sustainability of life and the development of society (…)‘. In turn, in article 50 that ‘everyone has the right to care. This includes the right to care, to be cared for and to care for oneself from birth to death. The State undertakes to provide the means to guarantee that care is worthy and carried out in conditions of equality and co-responsibility..

Although the proposed text of a fundamental right was rejected, the issue is on the table and the specialists agree that there is no turning back. In turn, the government program of President Gabriel Boric contemplates the creation of a national care system that brings together all the agents of society so that care, both of children and the elderly, is a shared responsibility of the entire the society. What must be done, from the different spheres – activism, civil society organizations and public policies – to not go backwards in this?

Responds Mariela Serey J, founder and advisor of the Yo Cuido Association

“The pandemic showed that women take charge of care for the sole fact of being women. In fact, from the association we carried out a study together with the Fundación Mamá Terapeuta that showed that the caregivers are mostly women who live with the people they care for and who are between 30 and 39 years old. 30.7% of them had made the decision to care because ‘there was no one else’. Regarding the employment situation, 77.8% said they had left their job at the time of assuming care. With that we understand that the majority do not have support and that all this is to the detriment of their own lives.

When we talk about social co-responsibility, then, it is about breaking down the four walls of the home. What must be achieved is to actively involve the other actors, both the State and society, the private sector and the entire family. This would allow progress in the desired equality and is a step to exercise the other rights. How do we achieve this? First, working on public policies; Local networks of support and care must be set up, and a national care system that articulates all the actors involved, including the private sector, so that redistribution mechanisms can be opened up. And second, to advance in the social sphere, educating in the field, creating campaigns in the media and showing that we are all interdependent and that the only way to advance is by taking care of ourselves.

It is, in short, a paradigm shift that allows us to move from an extreme individualistic model to a collective one based on social co-responsibility. All these concepts that we managed to leave written in the proposed Constitution cannot be lost for the future”.

Answers María Inés Salamanca, specialist in Strategic Alliances of UN Women for the Americas and the Caribbean

“The issue of care has been part of the gender agenda for many years and has been promoted by international organizations and civil society in different countries. UN Women, in particular, has taken care to define the 4R strategy in advance, understanding how necessary it is to recognize, redistribute, reduce Y reward unpaid care work that has historically fallen to women, in order to allow the responsibility of such to be valued and assumed between the State, the private sector, the community and households, between men and women. And in this sense, part of the task has been to make the issue visible and support the design of public policies.

International experience shows us that investment in quality care systems not only breaks the circles of poverty, inequality and exclusion, but even transforms this circle into a virtuous one that generates economic and social returns, through the so-called ‘ triple dividend’, which postulates that if you invest in care and put it at the center of responses, it is the whole society that benefits. And it is that an investment in a care system contributes directly to the well-being of people; if it is articulated with labor policies, it allows the direct and indirect creation of formal jobs and facilitates the participation of women in the world of work (the triple dividend being in human capital, in jobs and in the participation of women in the world of work).

With the pandemic, it became even more evident how the lack of recognition and appreciation of care impacts the lives of women; the overload that it implies and the barriers that it generates for their autonomy. In this sense, regardless of the fact that the proposal for a new Constitution – which recognized domestic work and enshrined care as a right – has been rejected, this issue has been installed on the public agenda of the States, largely thanks to the work of feminist organizations, which has led governments themselves to incorporate more and more relevant public policies. In the case of Chile, since before the constitutional process, the government program of President Gabriel Boric already proposed the creation of a national care system with a gender approach.

The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean will meet in November at the XV Regional Conference on Women and the central theme is The care society as a horizon for a sustainable recovery with gender equality. This meeting aims to strengthen the call and actions to avoid setbacks in terms of gender equality and women’s autonomy in the current global crisis scenario and also move towards a care society in the region, which puts the sustainability of human life and the planet in the center”.

How do we address the care crisis now? – Third