Women’s Work: What’s It Worth?

Morocco footballers celebrated their World Cup successes first with their mums, recognising the daily support their mothers give them. This is analogous to the whole economy, momentarily giving visibility to the fact that women everywhere bear the burden of care work.

The economy doesn’t only consist of goods and services that are traded. The economy is everything that is done to provision people’s needs, including social reproduction (or care) work – the “daily and generational tasks that allow for the continuation of life” – most of which is unpaid or underpaid. The current nurses’ strike in the UK – a historic first – stems from this issue. The market value of unwaged work is $10.8 trillion and more than 75% of it is done by women.

Feminist and degrowth movements both recognise this and are working together to ensure that a degrowth transformation of the economy will work for women, and not repeat existing patriarchal imbalances.

Corporate ESG moves to close the gender pay gap, increase women’s participation in the workforce and promote women into senior roles are necessary, but are never going to be enough because they don’t address the structural issue of invisible labour / the crisis of care / women’s double burden.

The feminist-degrowth point of view is that society should have diverse gender roles and paid/unpaid work should be distributed fairly.

A degrowth policy recommendation is reduced working time to help decrease throughput and therefore reduce materials and energy use. Feminist degrowth policy recommends a shorter working day rather than a shorter working week so that daily reproductive work (meals prep, child and elderly care, housework, etc) can be more equally divided among men and women.

Another degrowth and feminist policy suggestion is a Universal Basic (or Care) Income that is paid unconditionally to all adults. This would give all people a fixed income as a means of distributing economic benefits across the whole of the society that produces them – in so many ways.


Featured image by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

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