We need to create a caring economy

Across the planet we are going through a shared experience like no other.

But, for some people it’s been very different and for those where the economy wasn’t working for them before have suffered even more. Women, ethnic minorities, precarious workers. Inequality causes deaths, Covid-19 has made this worse. Poor housing, cold, damp and overcrowded. Lack of income to provide enough food, medicine, heat and power. Insecure jobs, dangerous and unsanitory conditions. All of these have put the most vulnerable on the front line.

Our economy has been telling people, “you are unskilled”, “you are undeserving”, “you are low paid”. This ruse, this false vision of the world and of worth has been unmasked. Instead the cry has been “you must go out to work, keep the economy going, you are our key workers, you are our heroes”.

Our response to this pandemic has been centred on care. We care for each other by staying alone and isolated at home. Our health care workers at all levels have stepped up to care for those that fall ill. Our care at home workers, often on low pay and least valued, have stepped across doorsteps to care for the vulernable in their own homes. Our communities set up mutual aid groups to care for neighbours.

The basis of our humanity is about care and this crisis has re-inforced that. But, our economy has failed. It has created conditions of long hours, low pay and high living costs, lack of parental leave.

We need a different economy that enables us all to thrive and live on a healthy planet, one that builds back better: basic income; circular economies; just transition; community wealth building; a national investment bank.

What we can build depends on us being brave enough to let go of the old world, the one that’s safe and comforting and break out into the new and scary. One that has a caring wellbeing economy that works for everyone and the planet. Let’s forget GDP, instead ask, “how many girls are riding bikes to school?”

If we do that it means girls are going to school, bikes are a common mode of transport, it is safe for children to cycle, there is less pollution, we are all healthier, girls are empowered and less afraid. And it’s likely more boys will cycle to school too.

An economy that measure progress in these terms is likely to be a caring economy. It concentrates on creating the conditions we need to care for each other and not create wealth for the few.

This article is based on one called We must create a caring economy that appears in What on Earth Magazine. Issue 81,  Summer 2020