The care economy includes child care, elder care, and care for people who are ill or disabled and in need of assistance. That care is provided by home-based businesses, care centers, and by individuals who work in the homes of those they care for. Because of the loose nature of this network, some have bristled at the idea that the care economy might be classified as infrastructure, though few deny the necessity of caregivers in our current economic system. They make appeals to traditional uses of the term—things that are necessary, durable, and concrete—and they count on that last adjective to leave images of bridges and dams dancing in the minds of the populace.

“Our economy is deeply dependent on systems of care and caregiving, but this support infrastructure has been unrecognized and undervalued,” said Maureen Conway, executive director of the Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program. “For far too long, our care system has relied on requiring women, primarily women of color, to endure poverty wages and often demeaning working conditions. We need a resilient care infrastructure built with a recognition for the critical role of care systems and the human dignity of care workers.”

Many programs within the Aspen Institute have been working for years examining the fragility of our current care system. Through various initiatives and policy recommendations, they argue that the care economy should be considered vital infrastructure and that it should be supported as such.

We live in an economy that expects something approaching full employment. But people can’t go to work—or, in many cases, even work from home—if they can’t be confident that loved ones in need of care aren’t being looked after. A single caregiver might provide half-a-dozen workers the chance to earn money to support their families, creating an immediate multiplier effect.

Read the full article about care infrastructure by David Gibson at The Aspen Institute.