Report calls for caring economy

A new report from the Women’s Budget Group calls for a transformation of the economy with care at its centre.

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There is widespread public support for prioritising investment in social care, health and education over money for transport and technology, according to polling by the Women’s Budget Group which is calling for a care-led economic recovery.

The poll results are published in conjunction with a report on the Group’s  Commission on a Gender-Equal Economy. The Commission brought together experts from business, trade unions, civil society and academic to look at how the UK economy can be transformed into one which promotes equality, well being and sustainability.

The report, Creating a Caring Economy: A Call to Action, outlines eight steps to create a caring economy, based on gender equality, well being and sustainability. They include re-envisioning what is meant by the economy, investing in social and physical infrastructure – including the creation of a Universal Care Service, improving wages in caring jobs, making work more flexible and providing paid caring leave, reforming the tax system, providing a universal basic income and concrete measures to tackle the international economic system.

The report states: “A caring economy is an idea whose time has come. As the UK and its constituent countries face Brexit and continue to confront the Covid-19 pandemic, we present here a bold, innovative, transformative, and necessary alternative to our current economic model. While the ideas behind a caring economy have been a long time coming, they are now imperative, drawing on the lessons learnt from the Covid-19 crisis and reflecting what people across the UK want to see: an economy which puts people and planet first.”

The poll, based on a representative survey of over 2,000 people, shows over half of respondents (55%) believe investment in social care, health and education is more important to the future of the economy than the Government’s preference for investment in transport and technology, with 38% thinking it is equally important.

It also shows that 69% of people are willing to pay more tax to support well-paid and secure jobs for everyone and 68% agreed that well being and standard of life should be used to judge the success of government economy policy.

Other key findings include:

  • 82% of respondents agree (54% strongly agree) that social care for older people and disabled people should be available to everyone based on their care needs not their wealth.
  • 75% of respondents say they would pay more tax to support investment in free social care for all adults over the age of 65 and disabled people.
  • Three in four agree that economic equality between women and men is the mark of a good society and over half (55%) say it is a political priority for them
  • Two in three agree that the Government should encourage and financially support men to provide more care, rising to 76% in former ‘red wall’ areas
  • 74% of the UK would be willing to pay more tax to support a pay rise for all key workers
  • Four in five of all respondents (79%) and three in four men (75 %) agree that women and men should share care tasks for children and/or older and disabled relatives equally

Marion Sharples, Project Manager of the Commission, and author of the report said:What the polling and the Commission’s report show us is that in order to have an economy that works for everyone we need a bold vision of an economy that includes everyone. Care is central to this vison. We will all require care at some point in our lives. At the moment care work isn’t shared fairly, with women doing the majority of care, both paid and unpaid. This means women have less time for paid work and other activities, so they earn less, own less and are more likely to be living in poverty. At the same time men are expected to be the main breadwinner, so they do not have the time to care for others.

“Our polling shows that both women and men want to change this and they are willing pay for it through higher tax. The report lays out a vision of an economy where we have time to care, and time free from care. There is also a strong call among the public for the Government to help facilitate this change and our report lays out how we can do things differently. ”

Women and Equalities Committee Chair Caroline Nokes backed the report. She said:“The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the inequalities in our society, especially gender inequality. It is now impossible to ignore. Long term failure to adequately gender-check government policies has led to women faring worse than men in multiple ways – taking on the burden of care, being over represented in low paid and insecure jobs, and hit hard by decisions around sector shutdowns and re-opening. This failure is a continuing problem which in many ways leaves women more exposed to the harsh social and economic impact not only of this pandemic, but other crises too. These bold and ambitious proposals from the Women’s Budget Group deserve careful consideration from Government and policymakers so that as we try and move forward, we ensure that a gender-equal recovery from the health crisis becomes a foundation for a gender-equal economic future.”

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