Did you know that the United States is the only developed country without nationally funded paid parental leave? Our wealthy nation invests less than half as much in family benefits as other developed nations, and the least in early childhood care and education. So the US child poverty rate is nearly double that of other developed nations. Not only that, the 2014 Shriver Report showed that one third of US women live in poverty or on its brink, and the US Census Bureau found that women over 65 are twice as poor as men of the same age.
We can, and must, change this.
The Caring Economy Campaign
The goal of the Caring Economy Campaign (CEC) of the Center for Partnership Studies is to change the current economic paradigm that devalues the most important human work: the work of caring for people, starting in early childhood, and caring for our Mother Earth.
The Social Wealth Economic Indicators (SWEIs) just launched by the Center for Partnership Studies demonstrate the enormous return from investment in caring for people through policies such as high quality early childhood care and education, paid parental and family leave, parenting education, and other supports for the care work.
SWEIs document how the failure to invest in such policies is a major cause of cycles of poverty, especially among women who are the majority of caregivers. In the market, this work is still underpaid and undervalued. And, unlike other developed nations, the United States does not offer paid parental and sick leave or free childcare for low-income families
In addition to SWEIs, the CEC offers other tools for change, including online webinars for becoming caring economy leaders (to date with participants from 18 nations) and a coalition of allied organizations (to date representing 17 million people).
Changing Values and Priorities
Social Wealth Economic Indicators show that caring policies and practices are not only a matter of doing what is right but are also essential for our economic future.
Caring business practices benefit all stakeholders: employees, customers, shareholders, and communities. Statistics show that caring business policies sharply reduce employee turnover, saving companies millions of dollars. The cost of replacing hourly employees is equivalent to about six months of their earnings. The cost of replacing salaried employees can be as high as 18 months of their salary. Job turnover can cost as much as 40 percent of annual profits. There are also high business costs from absenteeism, which is often the direct result of workers’ family responsibilities, so businesses that do not have caring policies have high turnover and absentee related losses.
Yet many business people still dismiss caring as “soft” or “feminine” and view it as counterproductive, or at best irrelevant, to business success.
The devaluation of anything considered soft or feminine has also distorted national funding priorities. Many politicians have no problem with huge deficits and large budgets for weapons, wars, and prisons. But when it comes to investing in caring for people – health care, childcare, paid parental leave, and other investments in a better quality of life – they claim there is no money.
They too ignore the evidence; for example, nations such as Sweden, Finland, and Norway pioneered caring policies — and as a result have both a high general quality of life and a high ranking in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness ratings. Not coincidentally, the World Economic Forum’s annual Gender Gap Reports also show that these nations have the lowest gender gaps.
In short, as the status of women rises, so also does the value given to stereotypically feminine values and activities such as caring and caregiving – whether performed by women or men.
The Opportunity for Change
Our nation and the world are in the midst of a sea change as we shift from the industrial to the knowledge/information era. Economists tell us that the most important capital for the postindustrial economy is “high quality human capital.” Investment in natural capital is also essential, especially at this time of environmental destruction and despoliation
So we have an unprecedented window of opportunity for change — and the Caring Economy Campaign is a vehicle for taking advantage of it.
We can each play a part in moving toward a more caring economy and society by showing that investing in caring for people, starting in early childhood, is key to sound economics, as well as to more fulfilling lives for us all. Economic systems are human creations. They can change, and have changed. But it is up to us to guide this change in a caring, rather than uncaring, direction.
Riane Eisler is President of the Center for Partnership Studies, Director of the Caring Economy Campaign, and author of many books, including The Chalice and the Blade and The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics.
 Parts of this article are adapted from Riane Eisler, The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2007, 2008.