Given India’s GDP growth is estimated to contract by 11.8% in 2020-21, it is clear that the economy needs a revival strategy. To ensure the inequalities of the past do not re-occur, this revival strategy needs to be inclusive and fast-paced. One of the areas that promises to be both is the care economy and one of the first steps to undertake is the identification of care workers in India.
What is care work?
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) broadly defines care work as “consisting of activities and relations involved in meeting the physical, psychological and emotional needs of adults and children, old and young, frail and able-bodied. Care workers include a wide range of workers from university professors, doctors and dentists at one end of the spectrum, to childcare workers and personal care workers at the other. Care workers also include domestic workers.” For any society and economy to survive and thrive, care work, both paid and unpaid, is extremely essential but the indispensable nature of care work was further highlighted in the pandemic, when it became difficult to proceed without the services of care workers.
The vitality of care work
Apart from being necessary for the normal day to day, care economy is a huge employer, the sector also offers serious growth potential.
Not only does the paid care work sector employ a large proportion of India’s population, especially women, but given that soon India will become an aging country, the requirement of care work, especially personal, domestic and health care work will increase drastically, implying a large area of employment ready to absorb job seekers will open up.
Moreover, paid care work has always been a major source of remittances for India as many care workers tend to migrate to other countries for work. Although, the pandemic has affected their employment, it is extremely likely that as world economy revives, the need for paid care work to substitute unpaid care work will arise again. Then, a focus on care economy could also help revive and possibly increase India’s remittances from abroad.
Furthermore, since all over the world, most paid care workers are women and girls and they also cater to most of the unpaid care work, focus on care economy is likely to boost the extremely low Female Labour Force Participation Rate in India. Women will not only be encouraged to work in care economy but easy access to care work will allow women who previously burdened with unpaid care work were forced to leave paid work, a chance to re-join the labour force.
In fact, an ILO report states that since demand for care work all over the world is set to surge by 2030 (due to demographic transition and urbanisation), investment in India’s care economy can possibly produce 11 million jobs in India (of which 32.5% will be by women).
The Hurdles to Cross
Historically, however, not a lot of focus has been given…