The ethics and economics of care
Increases in life expectancy, changes in reproductive trends and the evolution of the family structure have intensified demand for care here in Catalonia, and a response is required. We need public policies oriented towards creating a new ethics and economics of care, alongside a social, cultural and urban environment that facilitates care.
When we want to measure the prosperity of a country or city, we usually examine the standard of its infrastructures, the effectiveness of its communications, and various other parameters, like its employment rate or investment in R&D. But, for all of this to work, first of all the country or city needs to guarantee the support and care structures that allow life to go on. Nothing could function without the (often invisible) work of those who look after the children and older adults who cannot take care of themselves, maintain the home and take responsibility for the immaterial assets we need to live, work and enjoy prosperity.
For a long time, the tasks that uphold life have fallen upon families and, in particular, upon women. Now, this work is increasingly being left to domestic workers, many of whom are immigrants and forced to work under precarious conditions, or even in the underground economy. The Covid-19 crisis has really highlighted the fragile nature of our system of care for dependent people. The initial catastrophic management of the pandemic in care homes shone a light on the shortcomings in these institutions and the dangers of a model that has long been too dominated by commercial logic and a desire for profit. These faults are long-standing, but the crisis has emphasised how urgently we must review the whole system, so that it is not the residents who must adapt to the organisation’s needs, but the organisation to the wishes and needs of its residents.
Increases in life expectancy, changes in reproductive trends and the evolution of the family structure are leading to intensified demand for care, which we need to deal with. When people are asked where they would like to live in the last years of their life, most say they would prefer to be at home. So that everyone can have their needs fulfilled, we require public policies oriented towards creating a new ethics and economics of care, alongside a social, cultural and urban environment that facilitates care. It must be everyone’s responsibility to care. A caring city is one that implements policies that enable its inhabitants to take care of themselves and of others.
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