Placing Care in the Center of Welfare: Interview with Elizabeth Jelin,Institute for Economic and Social Development

Public Policy and Financing

In this interview Elizabeth Jelin, an argentinian researcher at the Institute for Economic and Social Development, reflects on the importance of placing the issue of care in the wellness center and the importance of having good research to make accurate diagnoses of, for example, the living conditions of today’s  families and their homes, to provide good tools for decision-making in public policy and allow them to collaborate on reducing existing inequalities.

Q.Which are the main challenges for public policy regarding the issue of care?

A:Well, I think that the challenges when one incorporates the notion of care in the spotlight are multiple, because it’s like that is required to turn the look. If we put in center the care people  require, we have to look those who provide care and what it means to provide such care. This breaks the idea that the care is given by the family. Yes, the family is caregiver and within the family we know very well that it is women who are primarily responsible  for the task, but that women are not alone. Fundamentally there is a central role of the state, not only to regulate the various instances to provide good care, but also to provide it as a policy of equality and welfare. If not, what you get is greater social segmentation, fragmentation, where poverty of resources, which is also a poverty of time, that means a huge overload for women, while in other social sectors, either because you have access to market services of high quality, which is achieved is a kind of greater social polarization when the function of the state is an equalizing function.

Q.According to your experience, which public policies, social projects and/or academic research provide important elements to include in the discussion on the need to address care from government intervention?

A: Any public policy or state intervention should be based on a principle of equality on one hand and in a very good diagnosis of what the social situation is. I think there’s a challenge and a need to have good research data to allow the appropriate state interventions. When I say give the data, the first data point on which there seems to be a disconnect between policy and reality, is how are homes today and how are families today. And who and how they carry out care work, because it is from that knowledge that you can intervene to change reality. If you do not know how the families are and state policies are aimed at a kind of family model that does not match the social reality, policies  will never be good. So I think that research in this field is essential to carry out a good orientation of public policy. But that is another problem which is the subject matter of placing care in the center of the public agenda. We know that in some countries, I am thinking of Uruguay, they have created a National Care Service, an idea that caring is central to public policy, something that is not happening in Argentina, where there is nothing resembling that.

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