That is what we are seeing in the U.S. with child support included in Covid relief and child care in the proposed infrastructure bill. To some extent, it’s a response accelerated by the crisis. And it could have a long lasting, persistent effect that allows women to get care for their kids, while they pursue their own careers.
I wish I could cite examples of where we can prove this effect, but I don’t think we’ve ever found ourselves quite in this situation. But what we do know, comparing countries, is that in places where child care options are better, women are more likely to go to work.
The current situation is going to give us a chance to experiment with various models, for example, with people starting to work more from home. On the one hand, that’s bad for women, especially when the kids are home. On the other hand, that creates the possibility for flexible work that might allow some people to be in the labor market when they would not have before.
In light of that, what are some of the biggest opportunities right now?
The first one is this idea of putting dignity back at the center of our social protections. In the U.S., there is this idea that if you need help, you’re probably a welfare queen, or you’re someone who is to be treated with suspicion. And as a result, we try to make it difficult.
But in the Covid crisis, we found that, at some point, everyone needed help. People realized that it’s not that they were lazy; it’s that this massive shock happened. And the government was there to help them. It really is a chance to rethink social protection, not as charity, but as insurance.
The second one is climate change. And that’s related because I don’t think it’s possible to address climate change without first addressing inequalities. Any climate change policy will have losers and winners; and unless you can show that you’re good about compensating the losers, you just cannot do climate change policy. If we improve on the idea of social protection, keeping dignity at the center, we’ll be in a better place to do things on climate change without scaring people away.
The third one is the question of care. The Covid crisis made it so clear that we need to have a better, more robust system of care that does not collapse when there is a moment of crisis. Putting money in it will create a lot of jobs that are very robust, because they cannot be exported; they cannot be automated.