We must invest in care and the carers

Two women walking down the street

History will remember the Covid pandemic for taking well over a million lives worldwide. It will remember hundreds of millions being pushed into destitution and poverty.

History will also likely remember the pandemic as the first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time.

Today, a new report by Oxfam reveals that the world’s ten richest men have seen their combined wealth increase by £400 billion during the pandemic; enough to both pay for a Covid-19 vaccine for everyone on the planet and reverse the rise in poverty.

‘The Inequality Virus’ shows that economic, racial and gender divides are deepening and is published on the opening day of the World Economic Forum’s ‘The Davos Agenda’.

How history will remember what governments, and the members of the global business and political elite meeting virtually for Davos, did to protect those with the least during and after this pandemic is an unfinished chapter.

Today’s report is globally focused, but Scotland’s own poverty warning lights are flashing, despite some welcome measures to help cushion the financial blow of the pandemic on communities.

The Scottish Parliament must do all it can to immediately support the rising number of people forced to rely on an inadequate UK-wide social safety net and emergency food parcels. But bold action will also be needed to reshape our economy after Covid so that it’s more equal, inclusive, protects the planet, and ends poverty.

If ever there was a time for change, it is now.

Critically, the virus has made us reflect on what and who we should value more in our society, particularly those working so hard to look after friends and loved ones, including children, both at home and at work.

Women, who provide most care, have kept the world – and Scotland – running during Covid. It’s nothing new: globally, women do three-quarters of all unpaid care work and comprise two-thirds of the paid – often underpaid – care workforce, which contributes trillions of dollars to the global economy. Yet all too often carers themselves face poverty.

It’s a key reason why Oxfam Scotland, alongside other leading organisations, is urging Scotland’s political leaders to make a ‘generation-defining’ commitment to the nation’s carers. Ahead of the Scottish election, we’re calling on the leaders of Scotland’s five main political parties to state their support for the creation of a new National Outcome on valuing and investing in care and all those who provide it, whether paid or unpaid.

Scotland 11 existing National Outcomes claim to describe the kind of country the Scottish Government aims to create, and they increasingly inform policy and spending decisions. Yet, none focus specifically on care. This omission must be rectified.

This is a pivotal moment and one that will be written about in history books.

We cannot continue to under-value care and those who provide it. Support for this new National Outcome is a litmus test of Scotland’s political leaders’ commitment to change. It’s a test they mustn’t fail.

This article was originally published in The Herald.