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Charity report sparks calls for Scottish Government to lead on recognition of unpaid care

This news post is 9 months old

Oxfam Scotland says Holyrood must lead the way by ‘ending the invisibility’ of care.

A staggering sixty-five per cent of women’s working hours are unpaid every week and excluded from official measures of economic activity, an Oxfam report has found.  

Radical Pathways Beyond GDP highlights how unpaid care – which accounts for forty-five per cent of all adults’ working hours each week globally – is excluded from gross domestic product (GDP) calculations.

The discussion paper looks at how the over-reliance on GDP warps governments’ priorities. Women carry out the majority of unpaid care – nearly 90 billion hours a week.

There is a growing consensus among policymakers and institutions that GDP is no longer fit for purpose as the primary indicator of economic and social progress. 

By excluding many factors that contribute to the overall health of the economy and wider society, the metric steers policymakers towards priorities that are fuelling inequality, gender and racial injustice and climate breakdown. 

The report argues that transformative alternatives to GDP are urgently required and that narrowly defined growth should never be a primary objective or end goal.

The report cites a handful of countries which have made efforts to incorporate alternative approaches into the highest levels of national law and policy, including Scotland. 

But while the Scottish Government describes the transition towards a wellbeing economy as a “top priority”, Scotland’s journey beyond-GDP remains far from complete.  

Anam Parvez, Oxfam head of research and author of the report, said: “Women are being short-changed the world over, pushed deeper into time and income poverty. 

“To add insult to injury, the majority of their work is ignored by official statistics. 

“Unpaid care is a hidden subsidy to the global economy; without it the system would collapse.

“In an age of climate crisis, growing inequality and economic turmoil, there is a strong case

that this outdated metric should no longer be the dominant compass guiding policy making. 

“It fails to distinguish whether economic activity is harming or benefitting people and the planet. 

“Government policies and budgets should be guided by a set of metrics that look at the whole picture, including closing the divide between the richest and the rest, instead of relentlessly pursuing growth for its own sake.”  

Scotland’s drive towards becoming a wellbeing economy is underpinned by its National Performance Framework and the eleven National Outcomes which sit within it, as well as by the linked Wellbeing Economy Monitor.  

However, care work is currently invisible within these, despite the Scottish Government saying the National Outcomes describe “the kind of Scotland it aims to create”. 

Encouragingly, Scottish Ministers are in the process of reviewing and refreshing the National Outcomes for the first time in five years.  

Campaigners, including Oxfam Scotland, are calling for the glaring omission on care to be addressed through the creation of a dedicated new National Outcome on Care. 

The A Scotland That Cares campaign is backed by over 60 organisations, including frontline care and health organisations, those representing unpaid carers and parents, and prominent anti-poverty charities and think tanks.  

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government accepts that traditional economic metrics like GDP are inadequate and that women’s contribution to the economy is persistently undervalued. 

“But while it talks a good game when it comes to measuring the things that really matter, now is the time for that rhetoric to be realised. 

“Without carers, Scotland’s communities and economy would grind to a halt yet they are virtually invisible in the Scottish Government’s vision for the country. Now is the time to right that wrong by ending the invisibility of care in Scotland’s wellbeing framework.  

“Ministers must capitalise on the opportunities presented by the refresh of its National Performance Framework and through the upcoming Wellbeing and Sustainable Development Bill to commit to, and then build, a truly caring wellbeing economy that puts people and planet above a blinkered pursuit of profit.”