· Published in RecoveryWatch

Funding for the new care economy should reach the women who care

After the European recovery funds were announced, at the Calala Fondo de Mujeres we began reading and analysing the scraps of information about it as they were published. When we only had a brief document outlining the aims of the funds we were excited to see that one of the themes shaping the plan was gender equality, and that one of its pillars was “The new care economy and employment policies”.

When the details of the plan were finally published we discovered that only one of the 30 components was dedicated to developing and implementing gender equality and the new care economy. Component 22, Emergency plan for the care economy and the reinforcement of inclusion policies, which is allocated €3.5 billion, 3.6% of the total budget.

This component is a hotchpotch of wildly different issues and themes such as personal care, a new care system for the elderly, children’s centres, the fight against male violence, improved accessibility for those with disabilities, support to all types of families, centres for refugees and asylum seekers and the Minimum Living Allowance. One single component with one single budget, to drive these myriad social services all in dire need of support.

All these themes are related to the daily life of women in one way or another, especially migrant women, who most often undertake outsourced, subcontracted or privatised care work. However, women, whether working in social services, in homes or as carers, are side-lined.

It is disappointing to see that this component does not include a gender-based or intersectional analysis, here where it is most needed. It does not state that social services are highly feminised or that outsourced care work is mainly done by migrant women, and it completely ignores the fact that the sector is highly precarious and informal with few rights for employees. The component does not prioritise improving working conditions for female workers.

In reality, the main destination of the budget (some €1.7 billion euros) is the renovation, refurbishment and construction of buildings to be used by the various care services. This means that half of the funds will go to the construction sector – a highly masculinised sector which will also receive funds from other components specifically dedicated to refurbishing public buildings.

We really hoped for more from a programme designed by a government which calls itself feminist and from a pandemic recovery plan in a society which has just seen how central and essential care work is. We dreamt about what we could do with investment and funds to modernise, innovate and change the economic model in the Spanish State, investing in new economic sectors which prioritise life and do not destroy the planet. For us, this is the new care economy.

Feminist economists have already formulated concrete proposals for the reform of public services and state-community collaborations for delivering care – proposals which could have been pushed forward by this plan. Proposals to rethink the economic model and invest in sectors which are essential and fundamental to sustaining life. However, we will not lose hope. The component reserves €100 million euros to finance pilot projects to put community care management into practice. We hope that, this time, the selection process will hear the voices of feminist movements and female care workers.

By María Palmares Areas

María Palmares Areas is Executive Director of the Calala Fondo de Mujeres [Calala Women’s Fund], a foundation which finances feminist organisations based in Central America and the Spanish State.

Originally published in Spanish in El Público: https://blogs.publico.es/otrasmiradas/50341/los-fondos-para-la-nueva-economia-de-los-cuidados-deben-llegar-a-las-cuidadoras/