C’bean Urged To Put Care At Centre Of COVID-19 Response

(CMC) – Two United Nations agencies are urging Latin American and Caribbean governments to put care at the centre of their responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a joint document titled, “Care in Latin America and the Caribbean during the COVID-19,” the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) said this could be done by “creating incentive and recovery packages, promoting comprehensive systems that ensure access to care for people who need it, and guaranteeing the rights of the people who provide it.”

ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena and María Noel Vaeza, Regional Director of UN Women for the Americas and the Caribbean said “comprehensive care systems can become a real driver of the region’s socioeconomic recovery, which leaves no one behind.

Bárcena said the COVID-19 crisis must be transformed into an opportunity to strengthen care policies in the region, using a systemic and comprehensive approach.

“This means incorporating all the populations that need care and generating synergy with economic, employment, health, education and social protection policies, on the basis of promoting social and gender co-responsibility.

“This is the only way to successfully face the diverse consequences and economic and social impacts caused by the pandemic, and to build back with greater equality, leaving no one behind,” Bárcena added.

Noel Vaeza said the current pandemic is “exceptional and demands profound changes and the expansion of social protection, which entails new social contracts.

“It is time to take public investment in health and job creation with a gender and rights-based approach seriously. Investment in care policies generates a triple dividend since, in addition to contributing to people’s well-being, it enables the direct and indirect creation of quality employment and facilitates women’s participation in the workforce, which leads to revenue returning to the State via taxes and contributions and to greater income for people.

“If governments do not take seriously the need to strengthen care systems with co-responsibility, this crisis may leave many women out of the economy and unable to exercise their economic and social rights,” she added.

In addition to analysing the importance of care systems in the region, the report raises the visibility of the effects that the pandemic has had in this area, along with the measures implemented in the framework of the response to COVID-19 in some countries.

The report also offers a series of policy recommendations to address the care crisis in the current context.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed the centrality of care, demonstrating the unsustainability of its current distribution,” the report stated.

ECLAC and UN Women said that, since before the pandemic, women in Latin America and the Caribbean have “dedicated triple the time that men do to unpaid care work.”

According to the document, this situation has been aggravated by the rising demand for care, and the reduced supply of services caused by the confinement and social distancing measures that have been adopted.

“The pandemic’s effects on people’s lives create new challenges for reorganizing productive and reproductive work in the short, medium and long term, and they will entail new demands on national public education, health and social protection systems, beyond the crisis,” the report notes.

It urges that care services be given priority, making sure they can be carried out safely during periods of confinement; expanding the protection of people who perform both paid and unpaid care work; investing in care infrastructure and in technology and transport systems that save time; and integrating the care economy into the planning, design and implementation of macroeconomic policies, among others.

The report proposes conducting rapid data gathering on the impacts of COVID-19 on unpaid care work, as well as ensuring the functioning of childcare services and care services for older adults and people with disabilities; providing more flexible conditions for access to bonuses and subsidies to access care services; promoting the business sector’s co-responsibility during lockdown; leading campaigns to raise the visibility of the heavy care burden on women; and systematically incorporating working groups on care policies into the crisis committees created in the context of the pandemic.