This blog post is dedicated to the important role that unpaid female caregiving plays in the economy. My intention here is to shed light on why it is crucial (whether you are a parent or not) to become invested in the treatment, care, resources, and support that anyone raising children receives and has access to – from a human rights perspective and also from a business perspective.
WHERE DO CUSTOMERS COME FROM
Every business, big or small has one very important thing in common that is needed in order for it to exist: Customers. People to buy or invest in what they are doing.
What Are Customers & Where Do They Come From? Customers are simply people, but not just any people…people with money to spend and who choose to spend it. The answer to where they come from is the same as if we were to ask where do people come from? Or in other words, where do babies come from? What I'm getting at is the need to recognize that our entire economy (and human race) depends on women having babies. More specifically, women having babies, those babies being cared for and raised into adults who will make money and spend money. This is where every single customer comes from... the womb. Of course men are needed as well, but in the end it's the woman's body that will be affected/needed to grow and birth the child and therefore the woman has the final choice to make. And statistically, women still do the majority of unpaid labour/child care, and this is why I have made mothers the main topic here.
“One would think that since women produce the entire human species, they would be the richest people in the world. However, 70% of those living in abject poverty in the world are women and poverty is also prevalent for women here in Canada.” — C.A. L'Hirondelle, Mothernomics - The Economics of Motherhood
SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE
In the business world it's very clear why customers are so important... yet, that doesn't seem to translate to the topic of why we need a bigger, collective investment in the wellbeing of mothers who are living in poverty. Perhaps if we changed the way we define a "real job" we could start to put a higher value on unpaid caregiving and raise the standard for what all children and parents have the right to have access to. This might sound crazy at first, but when we step back and look at the bigger picture of how we're all connected... I think it would be crazier to ignore the fact that the impact of children being raised in poverty is something that ripples out to every single one of us.
In the business community, I am constantly seeing helpful ideas around how to elevate one's self (which is important), but what I'm also committed to doing more of is promoting new ideas and solutions for how to elevate the system in which we all participate in. So whether you agree or disagree with what I have to say, I hope that in sharing my voice on this subject, it can open up more of a dialogue for those interested.
Basically, I would really love to help shift the focus from the usual 'elevate yourself' to 'let's also elevate the system!' This way, we could find a way to create more equal opportunity to those who are currently living and raising children in financial crisis, while also stimulating the economy and giving more businesses the chance to thrive.
If we all can see the importance of mothers and those raising children, why not increase the demand for systemic changes from our government?
"Unpaid female caregiving is not only the life-blood of families, it is the very heart of the economy." — Ann Crittenden, The Price of Motherhood (2001)
Thankfully, there are many mothers/parents who DO get the proper support, and are able to THRIVE and feel valued as they raise their children. I want to recognize that for some, our current system is perfectly fine. There are many different levels for how much or how little parents get supported and for many parents, it will depend on social status, social circle and the help of family. Like many other social justice and civil rights issues, it's often very difficult for the 'haves' to acknowledge the human rights of the 'have nots'. So, if you are one of the lucky ones, I still ask that you continue reading and keep an open mind to the idea that there are still major issues that need our united support. There have also been many government programs and new financial aids, but in my opinion these seem to only be putting a bandaid over the problem instead of getting to the root cause... Because when we look at the whole spectrum and how different the motherhood experience is for each woman; as long as we have parents living in poverty, as long as we have children growing up in poverty, then that shows there is A LOT of room for improvements to be made.
THE RIGHT TO HEALTH & DIGNITY
When it comes to raising children, no industry wants to admit how much they rely on the free labour of parents and caregivers — Despite the obvious evidence that we all benefit in the end from the work of parents.
I'm not a mother myself but I have seen first hand how much my own mother had to struggle to survive raising three kids. Just as any parent or parents, whether they are male or female, there's no denying the stress and impact that's involved when trying to raise children without financial stability.
I think we can all agree that one thing every human being on this planet has in common is that we all grew inside a woman's body and were born from her body. Our mothers gave us life. Our parents and caregivers are the roots from which we've grown. Which is why as women, as entrepreneurs, as humans… We need to come together and recognize the need for change. A change that would guarantee every mother, father, child, person, the right to live their life with health and dignity.
"Not having children might be financially wise individually but when the desired goal of society —as stated repeatedly by leaders of all stripes— is for unlimited economic growth, then it becomes a massive disaster." — C.A. L'Hirondelle, Mothernomics - The Economics of Motherhood
I know it's easy to talk about the problems, but I rarely see new long term solutions being put into action or even considered. Ones that recognize technological advances that are putting people out of jobs while also considering the amount of unpaid labour that our economy relies on. A solution that I, and many others are advocating is called a The Guaranteed Livable Income (a.k.a Basic Income). Although this idea will sound new to many, and it would be considered new when implemented, the actual idea has been around for quite a while. It is a possible solution to poverty that has been ignored for far too long. It's the same one that Martin Luther King Jr. was fighting for in the 1960's.
It's simple, ethical, environmentally beneficial and it is finally starting to gain serious momentum and recognition. Has its time finally come? That will depend on how many people can come together and start demanding it as a basic human right.
"The solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Chaos or Community - 1967
GUARANTEED LIVABLE INCOME (AKA BASIC INCOME)
Simply put, it would be like getting a guaranteed monthly allowance in order to eliminate poverty and ensure livable conditions for all people. Everyone would get it, whether they were rich or poor, employed or unemployed. It would provide every person with enough money to cover their basic rights to live. It would be a safety net, to make sure everyone has enough to feed, shelter, and clothe themselves and their children. This doesn't mean that you wouldn't still be free to continue making your own money. A Basic Income of course may not be the "perfect solution", and sure, there will still be people (a small number) who abuse it and still end up living in unhealthy conditions... but I think more important questions for us to ask are: Would it be an improvement? Would it be progress? Would it cause LESS people to die from unnecessary poverty and ill health due to poverty? Would it improve equal opportunity? Would it improve the lives of children? Would it be worth at least trying? I recently found this very interesting video talking about Vancouver (Canada), specifically and they cover a few different points. You can watch it HERE (first 7mins are most interesting). Church groups in Namibia (Southern Africa) organized a Basic Income for one village and tracked the results… short clip about it HERE.
They are already experimenting with this very concept in Ontario, Canada. See video HERE). And San Francisco has launched a pilot project which I'm very excited to follow the results of.
For more information on a GLI read: 10 reasons why we need a Guaranteed Livable Income*
Thanks to C.A. L’Hirondelle and her 20+ years of research and advocating for a Guaranteed Livable Income. She has written dozens of evidence-based articles on this topic including the one that inspired me to write this blog: Mothernomics - The Economics of Motherhood
“A Guaranteed Livable Income is environmentally and economically feasible (many costs of poverty and poor health from poverty will be vastly reduced) and will create productive choice for people and the planet.”
-— C.A. L'Hirondelle, Mothernomics - The Economics of Motherhood
THE MANY BENEFITS Once the risk of poverty is taken away, people will be able to experiment with their ideas and take time off to explore their passion and creativity. It would enable more people to start families, freedom to raise their own children, improve communities and the growth of businesses (more customers).
It would also give people the power to say No to situations and jobs that are exploitive. Those who are vulnerable and desperate for money often get the most taken advantage of and agree to doing work that they know is harmful to either themselves, other people, animals or the environment.
Not only do I believe a Basic Income is the gateway to a more ethical, more creative, more inclusive, more loving, livable world for all, I also believe it will create an explosion of micro/small businesses, protect people from jobs lost due to automation, stabilize the economy and empower not only women, but all people to pursue their dreams and explore their potential.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Do you want to help advocate for a Guaranteed Livable Income? If yes, then I simply encourage you to: start talking about it, start writing about it, promote it on social media, share this blog, share any blog/article that helps bring awareness, share your thoughts, research it, and start asking for it. Every little bit of exposure, or discussion helps create the change! You can also learn more and show your support by engaging with the Livable4All group on Twitter & IG or by going to their website: www.livableincome.org. And if you are in the U.S., I highly recommend that you connect with Scott Santens at: www.scottsantens.com