Caregiving and the Policy Changes Needed

Caregiving and the Policy Changes Needed

November is National Family Caregivers Month, honoring millions of caregivers across the country taking care of aging parents, children, and ill or disabled family members. The Iowa Caregivers Association represents those who work in homes and over 2,500 assisted living or other community-based settings, nursing homes, residential facilities, group homes, nursing homes, hospitals, and other locations across the state. In Iowa, this workforce of over 65,000 employees is 90% women, earning an average of $13.80 per hour. Turnover rate for this profession exceeds 67% (2018).

Unfortunately, care work typically falls to women due to gender stereotypes and traditional gender roles. In addition, racists stereotypes and immigration policies position immigrants, Black, undocumented, and low-income women on the frontlines of this work. Ensuring that essential services are available, direct care workers in childcare, long term care, and gender-based violence services are in high demand. In addition to cleaning and cashiering jobs, these are the women at the frontlines in the COVID-19 pandemic, and are often the least-recognized or appreciated workers in our lives.

This fact has been exacerbated by the pandemic and emphasizes the need for our work to keep women and girls central in recovery planning and all critical decision-making. The Canadian Women’s Foundation summarizes this point in its brief video Reset Normal.

In its parallel report, Resetting Normal: Women, Decent Work and Canada’s Fractured Care Economy, the foundation makes strong policy recommendations, noting Pandemic emergency measures prioritized collective public good. Recovery planning can continue to do so by removing gender bias from economic and social policy and recognizing that what is good for all women is good for the country.

Centering the experiences of diverse and marginalized communities of women in recovery planning can rebuild our economy, enhancing justice, equity, and inclusion.

Prioritization of decent work in women-dominated care and service sectors can ensure women re-enter the workforce and thrive at work, protect and advance equality gains, and boost the economy. 

Here are just a few of the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s specific policy recommendations (the report contains many more), which largely apply in the United States and across the globe:

  • Introduce care-friendly, gender-responsive policies and programs, including tax measures, targeting women living on low incomes and their families to assist with costs of caregiving.
  • Ensure care work is decent work.
  • Increase public investment in childcare to ensure women and parents of all genders can return to work and to stimulate recovery.
  • Recognize the public health role of sexual assault work and stabilize funding at levels commensurate with growing demand. 

Caregivers are vital to the health, vitality, and economic success of our economy, as well as crucial to the well-being of millions. We salute those of you who are caregivers, and send thanks to the hundreds of caregivers – seen and unseen – who play a role in each of our lives. The month of November can be a wonderful reminder and something to be truly thankful for.