Feminist literature has rightly tended to exaggerate the place of the nuclear family in the caregiving debate. Indeed, the break that industrialization meant in what was considered productive and reproductive work and the value given to the work that produced goods and services for sale led to a disregard for care work, which is why the center of studies with respect to gender it has been in the sexual division of labor. Although since the 1970s families have reported substantial changes in their conformation and traditionally assigned roles, mainly due to the wear and tear of the model of the male provider of resources and the incorporation of women into the labor market, policies in Latin America continue to support the role of families in procreation and burdening care work on women in the face of weak state participation and complex market participation in the provision of these services.
Thus, the nuclear family continues to be prevalent throughout the contemporary world and, incidentally, in Latin America.
It is precisely this family that consolidates a sexual division of labor in which the women’s labor force is expropriated by excluding it from the “public” world, from the market and from the State, and through a lack of regulation on the remuneration of their work. As the brilliant Charlotte Perkins Gilman explained at the beginning of the last century, the fact that the “housewife” has her needs satisfied has nothing to do with receiving remuneration for her work. What she receives has nothing to do with the quantity or quality of the work that is done and does not extend after the affective relationship with whom she contributes the money ends. However, the truth is that more and more social relationships are socially and legally recognized as family: those formed by same-sex couples and those of single women with children are already part of the new constellation of “families”.
In the debate raised regarding the association of families with care, we ask ourselves questions such as: what do we gain and what do we lose when we embrace the idea of ”home”, as opposed to that of “family”, in public policies and the government action?, how much of the family is retained in the concept of “home” and why does it matter?, what are the effects of speaking of “families”, in the plural, or of “family relations”, as opposed to “the family”? What should change in family law to materialize the end of the family as an organizing concept of social relationships? What are the costs and benefits of protecting other social relationships? How should we think about reproduction in the new world of families? (…)
Just as the nuclear family occupies a central place in the contemporary debate on care, boys and girls are at the heart of the concern for the transformations aimed at reducing and redistributing it. According to studies that analyzed the relationship between demography and gender, gender equality can be achieved, among other ways, by minimizing the burden of care responsibilities through non-procreation. This phenomenon has become a growing trend in recent years in countries with fertility rates well below replacement rates.
This approach is related, on the one hand, to the assumption that the dependency of the elderly and people with disabilities has been resolved with social protection systems. Indeed, old age and disability care schemes respond to the main objective of social security systems, which, beyond their operating and financing schemes, consist of addressing weakness as they are situations that affect income. However, in Latin America it is estimated that more than half of the elderly do not receive a pension from the contributory system, which forces them to seek insertion in the labor market, despite the increase in disability they suffer with age. In the same way, the little participation that people with disabilities have in the labor markets hinders their real access to social security services. (…)
The discussions collected so far force us to ask the question of how to rethink the relationship between the family and care and how to articulate these relationships with other actors, within the framework of a true care diamond that generates interactions between different social actors to guarantee the permanence of life.
Although the focus of the debate in feminist literature on care continues to be on the sexual division of labor, the question about the centrality of care in the public sphere, which women began to enter with the feminist revolution, has implied rethinking care as the core of a policy that is built from relationships with others, recognition of the fragility and relativity of autonomy and the category that we share throughout life both as recipients and givers of care. This approach supposes the construction of a broader definition of care, which goes beyond the private spectrum in which it has been studied as a “dirty job” carried out by women and which allows analyzing the ethics of care as a guiding concept of all actions within the framework of a democratic society.
*/** New families, new care. SXXI editors. (Fragment).
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