For centuries, nations, societies and cultures have relied on the unwaged work of people, mainly women, to ensure that the young, the elderly and others unable to fully care for themselves are looked after. Society has relied on unwaged caring work to ensure that successive generations are produced, educated, and socialised. Nations depend on unwaged caring work for the existence, health, and well-being of their waged workforce. Three quarters of the world’s unwaged caring work is done by women undertaking 12.5 billion hours every day and representing a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year.
Care income describes an end to this system. It describes a wage, paid in cash or access to land, beginning with mothers and other primary carers, and including those who care for and protect the soil, water, air and natural world. The care income values and recognises the life-giving and life-sustaining work of reproducing and caring for the entire human race. It recognises caring as fundamental to all human relationships and the need to invest in those who do care work for the survival of us all. It recognises that there is no human reproduction without the natural world on which we all depend – the care of the land, the air, the oceans and the rivers. It demands a reversal of priorities: from an economy aimed at profit which enriches some to the detriment of all, to an economy aimed at protecting and enriching all life.
The demand for a care income has grown out of the International Wages for Housework Campaign (IWFHC) started in 1972 by Selma James. The IWFHC is an ongoing campaign that begins with those with least power internationally – unwaged workers in the home, mostly mothers, and unwaged subsistence farmers and workers on the land and in the community. The demand for wages for caring work is also a way of organising from the bottom up, of autonomous sectors working together to end the imbalance of power relations among us. The IWFHC succeeded in getting the UN to pass path-breaking commitments that acknowledge the contribution of unwaged caring work that women do in the home, on the land, and in the community. Since 8 March 2000, the IWFHC has become more widely known as the Global Women’s Strike (GWS).