At the Rio+20 Conference the concept of a Green Economy was presented as a positive response to the financial crisis of 2007-2008. The objective was to show that economic growth could be reconciled with a low-carbon economy through the convergence of economic and environmental policies. The focus of the proposed green economy is on increasing energy and resource efficiency of production and consumption patterns. Most civil society organizations, including feminist movements, have rejected the proposed concept because they believe that “green growth” will not achieve the drastic reduction in resource use needed to reduce CO2-emissions and the loss of diversity, and to stop the destruction of our eco-system. Furthermore, a green economy does little to promote gender-just and socially inclusive sustainable development. The concept of green growth is criticized for being largely gender-blind with a strong reliance on green technologies and market mechanisms to reach the goal of a greener economy. The proposed green economy is gender-blind because the economy continues to rely on unpaid and underpaid care work to provide essential care and support to dependent adults and children and non-human beings (this role is primarily performed by women). In contrast to a greener economy that maintains the economic structure and profit-making capitalist logic of the existing system, feminists are stressing the need for structural changes in the economic system with emphasis on distributional and development aspects.
Based on the results of an international workshop staged in February 2013, organized by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and genanet – focal point gender, environment, sustainability, this concept note seeks to explain, firstly, our shared understanding of a sustainable economy in which the principles of care are integrated with the principles of sustainability, and secondly, our views on an agenda for change.
1.A Sustainable and Caring Economy
It is our understanding that a socially and environmentally just society entails the underlying economic system operating with the purpose of facilitating a “good life for all” within the limits of Earth resources. To achieve this, a fundamental shift in economic rationality is required. We need a new economic and social system where the normative notions of substantive freedoms, the expansion of male and female capabilities, caring, gender and social equity, are just as much the main pillars as environmental sustainability. These notions are an integral part of our framework that integrates SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY, LIVELIHOODS AND THE PRINCIPLES AND ETHICS OF CARE.
This understanding “contrasts with the marginalization of care as a societal value (caring) and as a form of work (care), even in the discourse on sustainability itself.” (genanet/Gottschlich 2012)
The Capability Approach according to Nussbaum (2011)
“The Capability Approach can be provisionally defined as an approach to a comparative quality-of-life assessment and to theorizing about basic social justice. It holds that the key question to ask when comparing societies and assessing them for their basic decency or justice, is “What is each person able to do and to be?” In other words, the approach takes each person as an end, asking not just about the total or average well-being, but about the opportunities available to each person. It is focused on choice or freedom, holding that the crucial good which societies should be promoting for their people is a set of opportunities, or substantial freedoms, which people then may or may not exercise in action: the choice is their’s. It thus commits itself to respect for people’s powers of self-definition. The approach is resolutely pluralist in terms of value: it contends that the capability achievements that are central for people differ in quality, not just in quantity; that they cannot without distortion be reduced to a single numerical scale; and that a fundamental part of understanding and producing them is understanding the specific nature of each. Finally, the approach is concerned with entrenched social injustice and inequality, especially capability failures that are the result of discrimination or marginalization. It sets out an urgent task of government and public policy – namely, to improve the quality of life for all people as defined by their capabilities.” (pp 18-19)
10 Central Capabilities
1. LIFE. Being able to live to the end of a human life of normal length; not dying prematurely, or before one's life is so reduced as to be not worth living.
2. BODILY HEALTH. Being able to have good health, including reproductive health; to be adequately nourished; to have adequate shelter.
3. BODILY INTEGRITY. Being able to move freely from place to place; to be secure against violent assault, including sexual assault and domestic violence; having opportunities for sexual satisfaction and for choice in matters of reproduction.
4. SENSES, IMAGINATION, AND THOUGHT. Being able to use the senses; being able to imagine, to think, and to reason - and to do these things in a "truly human" way, a way informed and cultivated by an adequate education, including, but by no means limited to, literacy and basic mathematical and scientific training. Being able to use imagination and thought in connection with experiencing and producing expressive works and events of one's own choice, religious, literary, musical, and so forth. Being able to use one's mind in ways protected by guarantees of freedom of expression with respect to both political and artistic speech and freedom of religious exercise. Being able to have pleasurable experiences and to avoid non-beneficial pain.
5. EMOTIONS. Being able to have attachments to things and people outside ourselves; to love those who love and care for us, to grieve at their absence; in general, to love, to grieve, to experience longing, gratitude, and justified anger. Not having one's emotional development blighted by fear and anxiety. Supporting this capability means supporting forms of human association that can be shown to be crucial in their development.
6. PRACTICAL REASON. Being able to form a conception of the good and to engage in critical reflection about the planning of one's life. This entails protection for the liberty of conscience and religious observance.
A. FRIENDSHIP. Being able to live for and to others, to recognize and show concern for other human beings, to engage in various forms of social interaction; to be able to imagine the situation of another and to have compassion for that situation; to have the capability for both justice and friendship. Protecting this capability means, once again, protecting institutions that constitute such forms of affiliation, and also protecting the freedoms of assembly and political speech.
B. RESPECT. Having the social bases of self-respect and non-humiliation; being able to be treated as a dignified being whose worth is equal to that of others. This entails the assurance of non-discrimination on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity, caste, religion, and national origin.
8. OTHER SPECIES. Being able to live with concern for and in relation to animals, plants, and the world of nature.
9. PLAY. Being able to laugh, to play, and to enjoy recreational activities.
10. CONTROL OVER ONE'S ENVIRONMENT.
A. POLITICAL. Being able to participate effectively in political choices that govern one's life; having the right of political participation, protections of free speech and association.
B. MATERIAL. Being able to hold property (both land and movable goods); having the right to employment; having freedom from unwarranted search and seizure.”
(Martha C. Nussbaum, 2011,pp 33-34).
2. Caring as a Dimension of a Sustainable Economy
Our concept of a sustainable and caring economy demands a change in perspective. In a sustainable and caring economy, economic actions do not seek just to maximize individual profits, but are oriented towards the conservation and regeneration of the living basis of societies today and for the future – social and ecological productivities (Biesecker/Hofmeister 2010). In such an economic system growth is not an end in itself, but a means for a “good life” for all human beings and for the maintenance of nature’s capabilities to regenerate. This new perspective puts two hidden components of the economy at the forefront of social and economic thinking and acting: paid and unpaid care work, (productive, reproductive work and community management work) mostly performed by women and girls, and unpriced natural resources. The inclusion of the care economy should uncover hierarchical gender relations in all spheres of market production and exchange, (hierarchical relations which need to be transformed), while bringing forwards principles of ethics of care aiming at transforming the prevalent principles of the market economy.
A sustainable and caring economy is led by the rationality of care (Wearness 1984). This concept of rationality is based on the notion of human beings not as isolated individual utility maximizers, but as living and acting beings in a social context, who are capable of caring for others including the natural assets of future generations.
In this sustainable and caring economy, economic activities are seen as multifold processes of mediation between labor and nature in such a way that the capabilities for social and natural regeneration are conserved and renewed. This proposed economic system is based on a conceptualization of nature as an actor fully involved in economic processes (and not as an object of human economic activities – as a source of resources and a sink of waste). Nature is not a means for human life, but a cooperative partner with equal value and also an end in itself. All economic processes and products have to be designed in a form which helps to strengthen the regenerative forces of nature. Such an economic system is also based on an expanded concept of labor which integrates different forms of work performed outside the market that have been neglected until today. This integration not only calls for a new societal value of caring activities. It also calls for a redistribution of the whole set of socially important labor activities within households, communities and in the marketplace. Such redistribution would convert everybody into caregivers – women as well as men. The state together with civil society should design and create organizations, institutions and social policies that ensure that the combination of income earning and caregiving roles is not divided along gender lines.
3. Sustainable Economy and Sustainable Livelihood
In 1987, the Brundtland Commission of Environment and Development introduced the term “sustainable livelihood” to articulate “the provision for all of an adequate livelihood and equitable access to resources with the purpose of a sustainable development”. The notion was later expanded in the Agenda 21 of Rio Declaration of 1992 with the recognition that poverty is a complex multidimensional problem. The goal of poverty eradication was broadened to include the long-term objective of enabling all people to achieve sustainable livelihoods as an integrating factor that allows policies to address issues of development, sustainable resource management and poverty eradication simultaneously. Furthermore, the concept of Sustainable Economy in the Agenda 21 implied the recognition of connections between economic, social and environmental considerations in a policy-relevant and cohesive manner.
Rio Documents of 1992
Principle 3 of the Rio Declaration:
The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.
Principle 20 of the Rio Declaration:
Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.
Agenda 21 (Chapter 3 Combating Poverty. Programme Area: Enabling the poor to achieve sustainable livelihoods)
3.4. The long-term objective of enabling all people to achieve sustainable livelihoods should provide an integrating factor that allows policies to address issues of development, sustainable resource management and poverty
In other words, the international consensus that was reached to the effect that poverty eradication was an indispensable requirement for sustainable development was followed by an understanding that the means of living and sustenance of individual persons have to be taken into account by policy-makers in designing and implementing environmental policies. According to Chambers and Conway (1991: i) a “livelihood comprises people, their capabilities and their means of living, including, food, income and assets.” Therefore, sustainable development is a development which ensures livelihoods today and in the future. A sustainable and caring economy is an important means to meet the goal of sustainable development.
Such a focus on livelihood rather than on incomes to address poverty eradication was an important step forward. Poverty can be better defined as the deprivation of capabilities. In a sustainable and caring economy sustainability should include life-sustaining contributions of the care economy, which still defines and constrains women’s identities, expectations and actions.
Care is an essential part of social life. Increasing demands from ageing post-industrial societies have transformed care “from a private concern to a public issue” (Fine 2007). As women have escaped the limits of the domestic sphere, care has become a matter of widespread public and private interest. Women are primarily caregivers, whether as unpaid care providers in the realm of the household or as underpaid care workers in care industries (health, education, among others). Care is not just an activity (caring for) but also a practice that encompasses an ethical, emotional and relational dimension (caring about) and an activity (caring for) (Tronto 1993). Therefore care is both, a set of values and a series of concrete practices. A caring society is a society that values caring and care work. It follows that in a caring society, persons who engage in care activities are rewarded properly, and those who need care are recognized as full citizens with voice (Glenn 2000; Sen 2009).
The realm of care has to be totally integrated with the concept and practice of sustainable economy if policy-makers want to enable all men and women to achieve sustainable livelihoods. Concerns with sustainable development should render visible “the feminised spheres of reproductive work that support activities at every node of production chains” (Harcourt and Stremmelaar 2012).
The expansion of substantive freedoms and capabilities of women and men is central to the construction of sustainable livelihoods subjected, however, to the limited capacity of the ecosystem to absorb the impact of human activities (Sen 1999). Caring activities are means and ends for sustainability. They are indispensable to the social, economic and environmental reproduction of livelihoods. Dilemmas involving the provision of care have a bearing on the expansion and enhancement of women's and men's capabilities and real freedoms.
Hence, in a sustainable and caring society, the economy should be perceived as an instrument for assuring the development of women's and men's capabilities and the expansion of real freedoms, while preserving and protecting life support systems of the Planet Commons. It is an economic system in which unpaid and paid activities of caring for dependent adults, children and non-human beings/ the environment are adequately valued and remunerated.
4. Principles and Ethics of Care
A caring society – from a global to a local level – should be one in which care penetrates all major societal institutions because care/caring is not just an activity or a form of work, but in a deeper sense, it is a system of social relations that recognizes not only the interdependence between human beings but also their vulnerability. A caring society urges people to be aware of asymmetrical relations and dependencies that shape both individuals’ lives and society (Schnabl 2005; genanet/Gottschlich 2012). “Marginalizing care into the private sphere reinforces the myth that our successes are achieved as autonomous individuals, and as such, we have no responsibility to share the fruits of our success with others or to dedicate public resources to the work of care” (Lawson 2009:210). Likewise, caring is an ethical position that involves a commitment to others, to the community, to society at large and to nature (Ventura-Dias 2013). Based on the experience of the life world (Lebenswelt) and the care economy, feminist approaches have described the special quality of caring. This quality is expressed in shouldering responsibility for others and making a conscious commitment to other people and to nature (Gottschlich 2014). In this sense caring implies “reaching out to something other than the self - implying a deep empathy with other human and non-human persons” (Tronto 1993: 102).
The lifeworld concept is used in philosophy and in some social sciences, particularly sociology and anthropology. The concept emphasizes a state of affairs in which the world is experienced. Lifeworld describes a person's subjectively experienced world, whereas life conditions describe the person's actual circumstances in life. Accordingly, it could be said that a person's lifeworld is built depending on their particular life conditions. More precisely, the life conditions include the material and immaterial living circumstances as for example employment situation, availability of material resources, housing conditions, social environment (friends, foes, acquaintances, relatives, etc.) as well as the person’s physical condition (fat/thin, tall/small, female/male, healthy/sick, etc.). The lifeworld, in contrast, describes the subjective perception of these conditions. The concept of lifeworld goes beyond market and employment, but includes the sphere of reproduction.
(Definition shortened and adapted based on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifeworld, 17.04.2014)
Feminist scholars have recognized the multidimensional, complex and contradictory nature of care for women's identity and gender equity. On the one hand, care is a category relevant to the individual and global society and indispensable to human existence. On the other hand, there is hardly an area as important as care (work) that is subject to so much degradation and marginalisation (unfortunately in the discourse on sustainability as well). Furthermore, the current distribution of care responsibility (care giving and care receiving) in private and public spheres along gender lines raises equity questions. Consequently, feminist scientists call for an equitable gender distribution of work rather than delegating care (almost exclusively) to women. They also advocate a new balance between individuals, families, the state and the market when it comes to assuming responsibility for care provisions rather than merely promoting privatisation (Gottschlich 2014). The assumption of abundant domestic support in the family cannot be sustained in modern societies.
There is an urgent need for this process of re-thinking and re-shaping the responsibility for caring due to the fact that at the most general level caring can be perceived as a group of activities that include “everything that we do to maintain, continue, and repair our ‘world’ so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, ourselves and our environment, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web (Tronto 1993: 103 original emphasis).
Based on this understanding of interdependence the following principles of an ethics of care make an indispensable contribution to sustain livelihoods and lead to a reorganization of economy (Gottschlich 2014).
Such a caring economy
- focuses on the needs of people
- aims at facilitating life processes and ensuring a good life for everyone,
- is embedded in social-ecological context, focusing on life-giving processes,
- needs to be error tolerant and reversible
- anticipates long-term consequences
- acts thoughtfully, slowly and transparently in terms of time and space (Biesecker et al. 2000).
It is important to reiterate that care is not only a social virtue and a behavioral norm to a sustainable economy. It must be established as an attitude and a behavioral norm within and between societies and their economies, which takes into account asymmetries of power (Gottschlich 2014).
5. Care in the Global Economy: Global Care Chains
To construct a sustainable and caring economy means to apply the ethics and the rationality of care over the entire economic realm. Such a new economic system will be based on gender equity and equality. However, today we are confronted with an entirely different development: the increasing “commercialization of intimate life” (Hochschild 2003) through the emergence of formal and informal institutional care solutions. In industrial countries, changes in the demographic composition of society with reduced rates of birth and two wage-earners in the family condition the capacity of the family to provide unpaid care for all whoever needs it. Likewise, the restructuring of public services and the privatization of social care provisioning have compounded the gaps between increasing demand for and decreasing supply of care. The development of Global Care Chains to fill up these gaps further contributes to broadening of existing gender inequalities while creating new ones. Gender inequalities are being extended to a global network of cities through migration flows of domestic workers, nurses, and sex workers from low-income to high-income countries (Ehrenreich and Hochschild 2002; Sassen 2002).
These gender inequalities and exclusion prevails beyond borders and is now taking on new dimensions. As early as the 1960s, Asian women started to work as domestic service workers in Middle Eastern countries (Herrera Gioconda 2013). Since then, the number of migrant workers has grown; we find African and Latin American women have joined the ranks, leaving their home countries mainly for Europe and United States. But this trend is also taking place within same regions in the emerging economies such as Chile, where we find Peruvian domestic workers, or Singapore and Hong Kong, where we find Filipino domestic workers. And it is also taking place in the European Union.
At the bottom of the Care Chain
“Each year, around 700,000 people emigrate from Indonesia alone – and over 70 % of them work as domestic workers. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that there are up to 100 million domestic workers worldwide, most of whom are employed illegally and 80 % of whom are migrants. Also, 80 % of them are women. They emigrate from south-eastern Europe to industrial nations such as Japan or Hong Kong, or to the wealthy Arab Gulf states. They emigrate from South and Central America to North America and from Africa and eastern Europe to western Europe. The global care chain is an economic factor: for example, according to the World Bank, migrants sent back around 326 billion dollars to so-called developing countries in 2009. The EU country from which the highest remittances are sent is Germany – according to the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), 15 billion dollars were sent from Germany to various less wealthy countries. According to the German Confederation of Trade Unions, 2.6 million domestic workers work in German households. Just 250,000 of them are working legally. According to care expert Oliver Lauxen, around 100,000 eastern European carers work in care for the elderly alone – and he estimates that most of them are working illegally or in the grey economy.”
(FES Gender-Inforbief, Nr.2, 2013: At the bottom of the care chain.)
The financial crisis of 2007-2008 has severely affected women in the global economy (see Box). In Northern countries conservative fiscal policies led to a significant decline in public provision of social services, whereas in the South the crisis has deepened survival strategies of entire families (Orozco 2010). In both regions, care activities that used to be supported by women´s unpaid labour in the realm of the family are becoming a matter of public concern. The translation of care to the market and global care chains raises a set of complex questions relating to the several dimensions of international care migration, the rights of care receivers and caregivers, and labour relations and labour conditions in care service industries, particularly in terms of human rights violations suffered by immigrant care-providers.
When women decide to move out of their villages, towns and cities in the South, skills, knowledge and experience are transferred from rural areas to cities, from Southern to Northern countries. Moreover, when women decide to move to industrial countries they leave behind their families, their communities and their countries. Other women, mostly senior citizens (grandmothers), will have to care after their families. In the case of trained nurses or other skilled labour, public resources that were invested in their professional training will not return to their countries.
Effects of the crisis
“Even if the situation varies among individual economic sectors, there are a host of fundamental tendencies to be witnessed with regard to the impact of the crisis on the employment situation. Among these is rampant unemployment, with insecure and informal employment relations growing on a massive scale, and mounting poverty. Women are especially hard hit by all of these factors. Women have been affected less by the actual loss of their job and more from rising underemployment as a result of part-time work, with “shorter working hours” at the same time. As a result of the crisis, already existing trends in the labour market have been consolidated, while part-time work plays a sort of cushioning role for women. On top of this, the crisis has led to a massive expansion in so-called precarious working conditions, with short working times and very low wages, primarily affecting women.”
(translated after: http://transform-network.net/de/zeitschrift/ausgabe-102012/news/detail/Journal/women-facing-crisis-and-austerity.html, 15.04.2014)
In the United States, women are mostly employed in the public sector as teachers and clerical workers, and these are the areas that have been experiencing heavy cuts. At the official end of the recession, women comprised over half – 57.2 % – of all public workers. However, between June 2009 and April 2012, women lost 66.6 % of the 601,000 jobs shed in the public sector. For every two jobs gained by women in the private sector, one was lost in the public sector (NWLC 2012)
Therefore, because of gender roles and norms, historically and across a diverse range of countries, women from social and economically marginalized or vulnerable groups continue to provide care services to meet the needs of others. In low-income countries, although extremely heterogeneous, the situation of women has not changed much. Even in places where women social networks and their organized movements have succeeded in making care work more visible, women and girls are still considered the potential care givers as part of their gender role, while men continue to be reluctant to assume more care duties. Policy-makers in those countries do not effectively address unpaid care work, therefore perpetuating gender inequalities that do not allow people in this sector a decent livelihood. In many low-income countries, disadvantaged women continue to care for the most socially powerful sectors of the societies without receiving proper protection from the state against the abuses of care activities as a private practice. In the poorest homes in rural areas of developing countries, families rely on income derived from the employment of young women as care workers as an attempt to cope with unemployment, extreme poverty and economic insecurity.
6. An Agenda of Change: Values, Structures and Institutions
- The recognition of the importance of care for the construction of a sustainable society and its underlying economy is a long-term project that will require profound changes in the concept of the economy, in the definition of economic rationality, in the way societies and economies are organized and in societal relations to nature. The productivity of nature, its forces to regenerate and renew must be stabilized not only for the present day but also for future generations. Moreover, human societies should learn to value care needs and care work to provide adequate time and remuneration to market and state provided care activities as well as to bring about a redistribution of unpaid care work among household and community members. Redressing the current situation of gender inequality in care provision implies changing the rules of the game towards what Nancy Fraser calls the Universal Caregiver Approach (Fraser 1997).
- The notion that heavy and unequal care responsibilities are major barriers to gender equality and for women to fully enjoy their human rights should shape the design and implementation of labour and social policies (including, among other things, parental leave, maternity pay, access to high quality childcare, and flexible work arrangements). Care should be understood as a social and collective responsibility and not as an individual problem confined within the realm of the family. Social awareness of inequalities in scarce distribution combined with the concept of time poverty that affect unpaid women care providers should improve women’s livelihoods by reducing and redistributing unpaid care work at the household level.
- The redistribution of unpaid and underpaid care work should take place in three ways:
- Redistribution from women to men. Both in the public as well as private domain, solutions to care provision should take both men and women into account. For instance, employment leave should aim at both parents in order to challenge gender stereotypes and roles and to promote the concept of shared responsibilities of unpaid care work.
- Redistribution from households to the state, but not necessarily to the market: States should shift from a strategy of reliance on the market and voluntary provision of care back to public, affordable and high-quality care provision with universal access to health, education, and social security.
- Redistribution of time and resources among social groups, particularly to poor households.
- Societies should provide opportunities for participation by caregivers and care users in the design, implementation and monitoring of care services and other relevant policies.
- Institutional transformations will be globally necessary to improve gender equity relations within and between countries since solutions to the demand for care in industrial countries have resulted in supply of care workers from developing countries. These institutional transformations should set up a framework of rules and regulations that lead to ecologically, economically, socially and gender-just societies.
- At the global level one could also think about structures/institutions that critically monitor and accompany the development towards sustainable economies (something similar to the IPCC for example).
- States should stop subsidizing non-sustainable economic activities, production and enterprises (e.g. lignite coal mining).
- The ethic and principles of care should be established as a precondition for state support for enterprises (e.g. development of a care index for enterprises?)
- It should be discussed how the costs of care-work could be internalized within the overall costs of an enterprise. Such recognition of the realities of care-work and the internalization of costs should lead companies to build supportive structures for cases when employers have to take time off for caring. This could be done in different ways, but it should always help the enterprise (this is especially necessary for small and medium-size enterprises) to replace the loss of labour on the one hand and support the caregiver during this period on the other (e.g. through a compensatory wage provided by the state or health insurance scheme).
- The state must lay down regulations that allow only sustainable economic activities in the long run.
- More funds for research on care and sustainability should be made available, while in the curriculums of schools and universities should include gender, care and sustainability as indispensable parts of educational training.
- The transformation of the current economic model into a caring and sustainable one requires political will and the courage to change. In order to shape such a transition democratically, the involvement of all societal actors and concerned groups and communities is necessary.
- And, finally, new ideas have to be developed and perhaps tested in order to find out which pathways will produce a new economic model rooted in the principles of care and sustainability.
With this concept note we would like to stimulate a debate on how to link care and sustainability in order to develop ideas and policies to guide the transition to a more gender-just and sustainable economy. As it is still a draft which needs to be further developed and improved, we would be grateful for your comments, criticism and new ideas.
! Please note: The online consultation phase is over now. At the moment, the paper is being revised on the basis of comments made so far. But please feel free to use the blog for further discussion !
Authors of the concept note:
Adelheid Biesecker (FEMINIST ECONOMIST)
Priti Darooka (PWESCR)
Daniela Gottschlich (Leuphana University)
Magda Lanuza (Canadian Private Foundation/ DAWN)
Marcela Tovar-Restrepo (WEDO)
Ulrike Röhr (genanet)
Cäcilie Schildberg (FES)
Vivianne Ventura-Dias (Ex-Director ECLAC)
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