Home news Care work: "Who deserves to live well?"

Care work: "Who deserves to live well?"

Children are screaming, plates are piling up in the sink, and even if you have a fever of 40 degrees, nobody brings a glass of water. A society in which nobody cares about others would not work. Unpaid care work at home or in the family – also called care work – do for the most part women. They provide 52.4 percent more unpaid care than men – one hour daily and 27 minutes more. This is in the last "equality report" of the Federal Government. For politics and the economy this work is often invisible. Ina Praetorius and her association Wirtschaft ist Care are committed to change that.

TIME ONLINE: Mrs. Praetorius, you demand, among other things, that economic calculations not only include goods and services, but also unpaid care work such as raising children or shopping for the family. Many would see this as a private matter.

Ina Praetorius: Whether I bring children into the world or help my family is a personal choice. But as a society, we depend on people to care for each other and to have offspring. We all depend on care work: as children, we would not survive without our parents' sleepless nights. Most adults need close people who give them a good word. And very few of us outsource the entire housework to service providers: cooking, cleaning, listening to care – all this is work, even if it is not remunerated. In all countries of the world more unpaid than paid work – in Germany about one third more hours. But conventional economics pretend that people are adults
the world who make money from their first to the last day and
 spend – and never a self-cooked meal or a hug

Ina Praetorius, born in 1956, is a theologian and ethicist. For many years, it has been calling for a new social approach: Any work that benefits society needs to be recognized, whether paid or not. In 2015, she founded the association Wirtschaft ist Care in Switzerland.
© Katja Nideröst

TIME ONLINE: The Federal Statistical Office calculated 2013: If one would compensate the time, the people in Germany, for example, with cooking or children's hats, with the hourly wage of a domestic help, then extrapolated this work would be worth a trillion euros on the total population.

Praetorius: Calculations fictitiously suggest unpaid labor with the housekeeper pay are too low. Not only do people clean and cook at home, but they also do the work of a chauffeur or a teacher when they bring their children to school or do homework with them. There are also approaches that reckon with what kind of reward escapes someone who works in the household instead of in the office. A highly qualified lawyer who stays with the children eventually renounces the salary she would earn in the law firm.

TIME ONLINE: Why should a lawyer earn more if she cooks than a postman?

Praetorius: These are all just fictitious approaches. Our concern is not that each and every one is paid for rinsing and comforting. That would be practically impossible. But we want more people to understand the dimensions of care work. I always meet women who say: I do not do anything, I'm just a housewife. But they are not lying on the sofa, but take care of other people's emotional and physical needs. And as long as these women themselves feel that they are not doing any real work, they do not fight to make their work socially valued.

TIME ONLINE: Her examples often refer to women. Is Care Work a Women's Topic?

Praetorius: No, it is a question of the image of man: which work is actually important? What bothers me is that we are currently rewarding a financial adviser or a weapons producer better than a person who actually creates value for society, for example raising healthy children or caring for old people. A women's topic is care work only because it is female – and women are still doing more and more care than men.

TIME ONLINE: Women do one and a half times more unpaid work, the Federal Statistical Office found out. At the same time, they only get half the pension later than men.

Praetorius: That is an absurdity. People who work for their families need to be well-protected in old age – comparable to the workforce. That they are not properly honored until today, is abstruse, but historically explainable. Family comes from etymologically famulus, and that means "the servant". The children and the wife were long considered a man's possession. Therefore, the work that was done at home was not considered an independent work.


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