So we ennoble narratives of caregiving while simultaneously rating it low priority. The professionals — child care and elder care providers, most of them women of color, many of them immigrants — who work so hard to fill in that cognitive dissonance are underpaid and underprotected by labor laws. (The typical home care worker is paid only $15,100 a year.) As Ai-jen Poo, author of “The Age of Dignity” and a co-director of an advocacy organization, Caring Across Generations, puts it, “This is the work that makes all other work possible.”
This is not a “women’s issue,” as it has so often been framed, even though women still do a majority of caretaking, both paid and unpaid. Nor is it an individual problem to be solved. As Sarita Gupta, the other co-director of Caring Across Generations, explains: “People are realizing that there is a care system and that it affects everyone. Everyone has a care story. Americans are starting to ask: Why is this so hard? They’re angry, confused and want to do something about it.”
“The whole system needs a reboot,” Patrice Martin, one of those designers, explains. “Care needs to be reimagined. We need to start designing for the families of today rather than the stories of yesterday.”
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