President Joe Biden’s American employment plan aims to revive manufacturing and decarbonize the atmosphere. One of the most important elements, however, is how it would change the care industry. The state has always shaped the way care is provided, but in this country the sector has been malformed since its inception. Biden’s proposal, after decades of work by activists and academics, to set up new preschools, build day care and finance care for the elderly and disabled goes beyond that: it would fundamentally restructure care work in America.
Government played a central role in defining care work throughout the 19th century. Land grants supported settler families and states opened poor houses for the elderly. However, two developments in particular formed the basis for a modern care policy. First, at the end of the 19th century, the idea arose that only impoverished families should receive day care. This led to the persistent notion, as University of Maryland historian Sonya Michel put it, that “the presence of mothers in the workforce … is a” social problem “that needs to be addressed. To this day, experts continue to discuss family policy in the world of poverty legislation – not as something that is of vital importance for everyone.
The second resulted from the incompleteness of the New Deal. With its support for union education and social security, the New Deal brought new rights to the workplace, but largely ignored the budget. It also excluded many domestic workers and caregivers from the labor and legal protection measures that were created. As a result, with the expansion of care work in the middle of the century, the legislature assumed that private expenditure – possibly supported by tax credits – would be sufficient to support care work.
For decades, when policymakers tried to address the care work issue, they have been grappling with these unspoken assumptions – that public aid should only be used for people in poverty and that all other care work should be supported private expenses. These flawed premises created a system in which Americans are forced to quit their jobs to take care of children or other family members. according to on a 2016 paperHourly childcare costs rose 32 percent between 1990 and 2010. During this time, so many mothers left the workforce that total female employment fell by 5 percent.
Overturning these beliefs can help us find the way out of the current situation. First, we need to formalize social security support for families and children, which is available to everyone. An easy step would be to take the American Rescue Plan’s one-year child allowances and make them permanent and more accessible to people on a monthly basis. The model here is how social security works best, such as old-age pensions, where benefits are clear and widely available. This, in turn, will create a larger constituency to defend the program and ensure that it is maintained over time.
Second, the government should provide care facilities directly. Biden’s plan provides for the funding of the state day care center and preschool. Trust in private providers can lead to wasted care and price pressures in areas with higher demand. These problems cannot be solved by giving people more money because the parents’ expenses are high and are concentrated in the first few years. The direct public provision of care work can provide a basis of quality and access that cannot be achieved by simply subsidizing the private sector.
Finally, we should eliminate inequality in the legal world and ensure that carers receive the legal rights and recognition that all workers deserve. Biden’s job suggestion suggests that Medicaid’s home and community services can support high-paying nursing jobs that include benefits and the ability to bargain collectively. As Rakeen Mabud of the Groundwork Collaborative and Lenore Palladino of the University of Massachusetts Amherst found Investing in care work could create 2 million jobsthat would go disproportionately to women of color. Ensuring benefits and protection for these jobs would provide economic security for individual workers and their communities.
But to do all of this, we must first consider nursing as an integral part of not just the economy but life itself. It requires just as much, if not more, investment as any other part of a modern economy. Biden’s American employment plan is a start on this path.