Care: Home, Feminism, and Social Economics

One of the central and defining features of Ecological Economics is the recognition that the economy is embedded within the social system. The functioning of our economies is thus dependent not only on the health of the surrounding ecosystem, but the health of our social systems as well. For our social systems to thrive, we require economies that are oriented around the provisioning of humanity’s basic needs at both intra- and intergenerational scales. Indeed, we are only as safe or empowered as the most vulnerable members of our communities as the COVID-19 pandemic helps make clear in two ways: first, we have learned that many of the most vulnerable are essential workers without whom our economy will not function, and second, we cannot end a pandemic as long as it continues to circulate among the vulnerable. Yet mainstream economics continues to privilege market imperatives and profit above human well-being. Policies regarding the most important, yet undervalued, aspects of life need to be reoriented from success on Wall Street to the empowerment and care of people. This includes the maintenance of daily life such as healthy meals, access to fresh water and safe shelter, but also includes the exchange of ethics and morals, a sense of citizenship and communication skills, all of which are critical to developing the capabilities of people as workers, engaged citizens and environmental stewards now and in the future.

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How can you make a difference?

  • Have open and honest household discussions about division of labour, organizing the calendar and child care – unfair divisions of labour hurt relationships and men need to be mindful of a woman’s mental load
  • Teach children empathy from a young age, including empathy for non-human beings
  • Close communities often have a lower environmental footprint due to increased feelings of connectedness and having meaning beyond consumption. Foster a community of sharing, reciprocity, and support with your neighbours, friends and community by: 
    • Offering support to community organizations such as social services, parks, seniors groups, food pantries
    • Coordinate or participate in events
    • Publicizing information through your social networks
    • Volunteering for community organizations or to hold social gatherings in your space
    • Create a community email list or social group and hold events for parents and children (Parents’ nights out, community BBQ days, porch concerts)
    • Build a tiny library or tiny food pantry in front of your home
  • Take time to acknowledge and appreciate the services provided in your home: cleaning and waste management, finance management, meal planning and cooking, childcare, emotional labour, exchange and support, repairing and repurposing materials, researching and sharing knowledge about skills, entertainment in the arts and sciences – you are a producer! See our production policy page for more information on this!

Policy Suggestions

Local and MunicipalFederal & Provincial/State
Childcare benefits or accessibility programs for those who want to remain in the workforceRethink pay including a) a government job guarantee at wages well above the poverty level for all who are able to work, which will impose a floor on private sector wages;  b) Universal Basic Income either for all or  for those who cannot work, c) care incomes, d) top ups for parental and sick leave
Support a reduced and flexible work week and allowances for time off so that family commitments may be more equally distributed while improving employee well-beingProvide financial support to refugees, women’s shelters, other unhoused peoples
A guaranteed income for all who are not working and instead are taking care of anyone a) under the age of 18, b) is disabled, c) over the age of 60, or d) care for environment and nature – sometimes referred to as a Care IncomeIncrease resources and subsidies for nongovernmental organizations that respond to domestic violence
Ensure infrastructure is in place for access to clean, potable water or ensure delivery to underserved areasEnsure women’s timely access to sexual and reproductive health services such as emergency contraception and safe abortion
Feminist urban planning – see how to build a feminist cityImplement systems to meet mental health needs effectively including delivery of medication as part of a holistic health strategy

Allies, Related Resources, and E4A Publications

Ruder, S.L. and Sanniti S. (2019) Transcending the Learned Ignorance of Predatory Ontologies: A Research Agenda for an Ecofeminist-Informed Ecological Economics. Sustainability 11(5).

Change in Action

While not all of these projects direction involve E4A, they are great examples of diverse examples of socio-ecological change in action.

To suggest a change, edit, or update please contact us! You are also welcome to explore and comment on our collaborative Google Document where we share ideas and resources.