Ethic of Care. Why Care Policies Need to Recognize the Interdependence of Us All

Ruth Evans’ blog post for the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) Transformation Conversation blog series calls for the language of ‘burden’ and ‘dependency’ to be re-framed to recognise the vulnerability and interdependence of us all. She writes:

“Care is finally receiving more of the attention it deserves in international development policy. Unpaid care and domestic work is explicitly recognized in Sustainable Development Goal 5, “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. Target 5.4 indicates this recognition should take place, “through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies”. The UNRISD 2016 Flagship report joins calls for unpaid care and domestic work to be recognized, reduced and redistributed (known as the “Triple R” framework) by means of care policies. […]

Rather than using the language of ‘burden’ and ‘dependency’, care needs to be re-framed to recognize the vulnerability and interdependence of us all. While care is often constructed as ‘women’s work’, as part of their so-called ‘natural’ nurturing roles as mothers, children, particularly girls, also take on substantial and regular care and domestic work in households where a parent, sibling or relative has a need for care related to young or older age, disability, chronic illness, mental health or substance misuse. Despite significant research evidence that children’s care work can have a range of negative impacts, as well as some positive impacts, it is often neglected within public policy. Recent research in Senegal has also shown that the death of a parent, sibling or adult relative can lead to increases in young people’s care work, which can have detrimental impacts on their well-being, education and employment outcomes”.

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