For Jayati Ghosh – a world-leading rebel economist – “feminism is not only about promoting the rights of women, it’s about equality, empowerment for all and economic justice … this (neoliberal) economic model is blatantly against economic justice. It’s completely incompatible with feminism”. For Jayati there can be no such thing as neoliberal feminist.
Our podcast conversation with Jayati couldn’t have come sooner, as the billionaire festival ended in Davos and around the world people turn to the bold ideas to reimagine the global economy. Jayati’s rebel stands have earned her criticism from world leaders and fellow economists dubbing her a “purported economist”. Far from deter her she’s even more determined to keep fighting for equality – and hopeful for a better future. .
In this episode we unpack unpaid and poorly paid care work – think of the tens of billions of hours of work done by women and girls around the world cooking, the cleaning, looking after children, the sick and the elderly – that is at the root of inequality. .
Jayati explains that “there is a massive economic implication in the way unpaid care work occurs, and the conditions in which it occurs. In most societies it is typically women and girls that take on this work. But in addition: because so many women are doing this work it means that first of all women’s work is devalued, and women themselves are devalued, because they are not seen as contributing economically, and they don’t get the power you get when you contribute economically. Secondly anything women do then gets paid less. Where you have a lot of unpaid work in society, you also have a larger gender wage gap”. .
She congratulated Oxfam for focusing on the importance of care work this year “because it brought into public focus something which is undercover most of the time…. and that policy makers completely forget about.” She explains unpaid care work is conveniently ignored, “because it cheapens costs for private employers and for public policy… so they encourage keeping everything under cover.”.
Jayati hits back on criticism over not celebrating progress with women entering the workforce in large numbers, “it’s too slow, it’s too inadequate and I don’t think it’s really progress”. And she certainly doesn’t shy away from hitting back at leaders who are quick to voice their support for gender justice: “I have a depressing observation, that the more the leaders talk about it, the less they actually do”. .
Jayati, an expert on the future of work, welcomes automation and is optimistic. “I actually welcome automation. Anything that reduces drudgery and repetitive tasks is to be welcomed. We are the beneficiaries in our own lifetimes of so much more in terms of reduction of drudgery and arduous work that I don’t think in general we should fear it”..
She roots the fear of new technologies in the fact that “new technologies have the misfortune of being brought in during the neoliberal era, in an era where we have lost the imagination to recognise that when you invent new productive activities you can tax those activities’. She reflects on what we could achieve if we taxed technological activities: calculating for example that we could create at least 240mil more jobs globally in the care industry if developing countries were to have the same approach to care as countries like Sweden. .
So what gives Jayati hope in the fight against inequality? Reflecting on India she notes with a lot of emotion, “suddenly we have pushback…from the most unexpected quarters…from women, from students…”. She says “they’re fearless, they’re witty and they’re creative … I’m just proud to be even marginally attributed with them”..
A wonderful interview with a wonderful leader, an economist with an activist heart. Enlightening, empowering, and reminding us of the powerful and achievable ideas that could transform our world. .
Head over and listen to full podcast at The Radical Case For Care – with Jayati Ghosh. As ever, do subscribe to the podcast, and do share with your friends and your family! Email us your ideas, suggestions and feedback to email@example.com.
Next episode – a romantic twist on the fight against inequality. Join us then!