Do you want to get serious about the Care Economy? If so, read this (and if not, why not?)

October 27, 2021

     By Duncan Green     

Amber Parkes, Anam Parvez Butt, Marion Sharples and Vivian Schwarz-Blum talks us through an important new advocacy tool – the Care Policy Scorecard

Everything gets a rating these days: apps, hotels, Uber journeys. And everyone wants that five-star rating. But what about government policies that affect people’s lives? What if we could rate them too, according to how impactful and transformative the policies were?

Take, for example, care policies: policies that allocate resources, services or time to caregivers or people who need care. What do we know about care?

1. We know that all human beings depend on care throughout our lives; put simply, we can’t function without care.

2. We know that women and girls, particularly those in poverty and those who belong to racial and ethnic minority groups, shoulder the greatest responsibility for unpaid care work and are crowded into low-waged and precarious paid care work.

3. We know that despite its immense importance, care remains largely unrecognisedas a social good and  absentfrom policymakers’ agendas, even as we emerge from a global pandemic that revealed its crucial role.

But we also know that some governments are doing a better job than others in recognising, reducing, redistributing and representing unpaid care work and adequately rewarding the paid variety.

So how can we compare what different governments are doing on care, periodically and systematically? How can we see who’s leading the field and what the common pitfalls are?

Information is power

There’s been a huge amount of work done by feminist economists and others in addressing care inequalities and envisioning a caring economy – but until now, there’s been no practical tool that tracks and measures government progress. That’s why we, a group of organisations from around the world, have developed the Care Policy Scorecard.

This new tool is a methodology for care advocates, policy makers and researchers alike to measure – in a systematic way – what governments are doing, where they are investing and what still needs to be addressed. It provides a practical tool to pull together data and evidence comprehensively across the whole ambit of care policies and assess not only whether they have been adopted, but also how they are budgeted for, implemented and the extent to which they have a transformative impact on gender and other intersectional inequalities.

The Care Policy Scorecard gives us the power to both imagine and demand a caring society.  With this information we can hold national and sub-national governments to account on their commitments and obligations to recognise and invest in care, including international and regional human rights frameworks for gender equality, international labour standards and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Scorecard can also be a decision-making g tool for governments. Both the process and final result can show us in one (big) picture what has been prioritized and accomplished and where more investment is needed.

Most of all, it is a tool that allows us to learn from ourselves and about ourselves. Only rarely do we stop to look at the big policy picture, for we are focused on reaching goals. So, once a year or every two years: stop, look, learn and go on.

Key features of the Scorecard

The Care Policy Scorecard is organised into three key policy areas of unpaid care work, paid care work and cross-sectoral policy. Under each policy area sits a set of indicators and questions to assess where policies fall on a spectrum from 0: ‘policy doesn’t exist’, to 5: ‘policy exists and is transformative’.

Developed through an extensive consultation process with civil society, care experts and policy-makers, the Scorecard was designed with the following four key features in mind:

  • Practical: It doesn’t require a background in statistics; it is intended to be easy to use with a simple scoring methodology and an overall average score for each policy indicator. It also includes practical ‘how to’ guidance.
  • Adaptable: It can be adapted and used in different country contexts (at the national or sub-national level, in highly formal and informal labour markets), on different policy areas and indicators (paid or unpaid; care services, infrastructure, workplace policies) depending on the context and advocacy priorities of the user.
  • Aspirational: It includes assessment questions for which data may not yet exist, but which can nonetheless help to start a dialogue with governments about what transformative care policies look like, and highlight where more data is needed.
  • Transformative: It assesses policies not only on the basis of whether they exist and are implemented but the extent to which they have a transformational impact on the lives of caregivers and receivers.

So how do governments score a ‘five-star’ rating in the Care Policy Scorecard? First of all, policies have to not only exist on paper but have a sufficient budget attached to them. They also need to address restrictive gender norms around care work being seen as ‘women’s work’, guarantee the rights of both those giving and receiving care, and ensure quality care services are available and accessible to all – especially those most likely to be left behind. Lastly, they have to ensure that those who are directly affected by these policies, i.e. carers and care-receivers, are involved in making them.

Reaching for the (five) stars

Like any rating system, the Care Policy Scorecard can be used to shine a spotlight on good practices while also showing us where there is room for improvement. It shows us what the ‘gold standard’ looks like in care-related policies such as water infrastructure, healthcare and the minimum wage. It can also be used with periodic frequency to track government progress over time and really grab decision-maker’s attention.

As care advocates begin to undertake assessments together with governments, we have the opportunity to reach for a more transformative, inclusive and caring economy. Just like every hotel wants that five-star rating, so too we hope the Scorecard will help governments strive for a ‘five-star rating’ in their care policies.

October 27, 2021
Duncan Green