Three Reasons Why We Need a Caring Economy
In the receding waters of the recent economic tidal wave, a consensus is emerging that GDP doesn’t accurately identify the real condition of our economy, and that “something” is seriously missing from our economic measures.
CEC believes that missing “something” is “care.”
REASON 1. Caring is crucial
Neuroscience shows that quality childcare and early childhood education are vital to optimal human development. In the post-industrial knowledge/service economy, our economic success depends on what economists call high quality human capital. Caring—beginning in early childhood and throughout the lifespan—is crucial in terms of developing this high quality human capital.
Caring for nature is also crucial—our survival depends on ending the era of conquest and domination. The 2005 United Nations-sponsored Millennium Ecosystems Assessment reports that human activity over the past 50 years has: depleted 60% of the world’s grasslands, forests, farmlands, rivers, and lakes; destroyed 1/5th of the world’s coral reefs; and destroyed 1/3rd of the world’s mangrove forests.
In The Real Wealth of Nations (2007), Riane Eisler—whose vision aligns with others such as Amartya Sen, Nancy Folbre, Randy Albelda, Jane Dutton, and W. Steven Barnett—proposes a full-spectrum economics, making it possible to measure the work of caring and caregiving. Eisler suggests that to measure our real wealth, we must include all of the pieces of the economic puzzle:
- conventional sectors—market, government, and illegal economies
- NEW sectors—unpaid community, household, and natural economies
REASON 2. Caring societies build stronger economies
At the dawn of the 20th century, the Nordic nations were so poor that they experienced famines. Now, because these societies invested in their human infrastructures, they regularly rank high in the UN Human Development Reports and the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Reports. Examples of their caring investment in human infrastructure include:
- excellent child-care
- universal health care
- paid parental leave
- elder care with dignity
- high quality universal early education
- stipends to families for childcare
- green environmental policies
- 40% representation of women in national legislatures.
REASON 3. Gender matters!
A CPS study titled Women, Men, and the Global Quality of Life (1995) was one of the first to analyze statistical data from 89 nations comparing the staWomen, Men & Global Book Covertus of women with general quality of life indicators (such as infant mortality, human rights, and environmental regulations). The study found that the status of women can be a better predictor of general quality of life than GDP.
More recent studies, such as the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Reports and the World Values Surveys, have also linked the status of women to a nation’s economic success.
Research also indicates that the failure to give adequate value to the work of caring and caregiving is a major factor in the disproportionate poverty of women in the United States, and most other countries. This has extremely negative impacts on children, especially since woman-headed families are the poorest worldwide, directly affecting such critical matters as adequate nutrition, health care, education, and other factors in child welfare and development.
For more, see Riane Eisler's The Real Wealth of Nations (2007), Nancy Folbre's The Invisible Heart (2001), and Devaki Jain and Nirmala Banerjee, eds. The Tyranny of the Household (1985).