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What is a National Care System and why it is necessary in Mexico

By Valeria Uribe - Pan American Foundation for Development - PADF
National Director


By Valeria Uribe | Director Mexico - Thu, 07/27/2023 - 09:23

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We have heard about care, care economy and care industry, but what is care? Katrine Marçal’s book, Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?, points out the importance of women and economics, criticizing traditional economic thinking and analyzing how unpaid work has been relegated and undervalued, especially the care work carried out mainly by women. For the author, economics focuses on self-interest and excludes any other motivation. In other words, the unpaid work of raising, caring, cleaning, and cooking are totally ignored. 

Marçal stresses that women spend around two-thirds of their working day on unpaid work, while men spend barely a quarter of theirs. In her book, she explains that Adam Smith's mother, a widower, who spent most of her time with him, was the one who prepared his dinner. Smith, being the father of economics, did not see the value, the usefulness of unpaid housework, nor the economic contribution made by his mother, so he did not realize that thanks to these tasks he was able to devote his time to academics.

Caretaking is an essential element in everyone's life. From early childhood, children are not autonomous and require care, as well as older adults, people with disabilities or people who suffer from an illness and require help with various tasks, such as food preparation, laundry, delivery of medicines, and companionship. In Mexico, those who dedicate their time to caretaking are predominantly women. 

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), care work around the world continues to be characterized by a lack of benefits and protections, low pay or no compensation, as well as the risk of physical and mental harm, including sexual abuse in some cases. It is clear that new solutions to caretaking are required on two fronts: the nature and facilitation of care policies and services, and the conditions under which care is provided. One such solution is to establish a high-quality National Care System with universal coverage. 

What Is the National Care System?

The National Care System proposed for Mexico aims to guarantee access and the right to care by establishing co-responsibility between women, men, families, the community, the market, and the state.

There are two initiatives for the creation of the General Law of the National Care System in the country. The first was presented and approved in November 2020 in the plenary of the Chamber of Deputies, where legislators approved the right to dignified care and the creation of the National Care System, an opinion that was passed on to the Senate of the Republic. While the reform is up for consideration in the Senate, millions of women are unable to seek paid work because their time is taken up with unpaid domestic and care work. The opinion, approved by the deputies, specifies that everyone has the right to dignified care that sustains their lives and provides them with the material and symbolic elements to live in society.

In the Senate Gazette dated Nov. 30, 2021, a new legal order was proposed to guarantee access and the right to care, establishing co-responsibility between women, men, families, the community, the market, and the state. In this proposal, care services are those that provide attention, assistance, and care for people in a situation of dependency at home or at  institutional and residential settings.

This regulatory framework proposed in the Senate determines the situation of dependency according to age, disability, or degree of illness. It also creates a care system, which will be the coordinating body between the corresponding institutions and will have a National Care Board, chaired by the Welfare Secretariat and made up of various government ministries, as well as an honorary Consultative Assembly in which 10 to 20 actors from the country's public, private, and academic sectors will participate. It also creates the National Register for the National Care System, which will be populated with information derived from the System. It establishes the powers, competencies, and coordination between the State, federal entities, municipalities, and the territorial divisions of Mexico City. In addition, it states that governmental entities will participate in the financing of the system in accordance with the corresponding income and public expenditure provisions.

The National Care System is important for several reasons. First, it recognizes the right of all people to receive adequate care and attention, especially those in vulnerable situations. It also ensures that quality services are provided, promoting people's physical, emotional, and social well-being.

It is therefore necessary to have a National Care System to promote comprehensive and dignified care for people in need, recognizing their rights and fostering co-responsibility in society. It is also essential to contribute to gender equality, social and economic development, and the well-being of the population in general, as well as to provide women with higher quality employment opportunities, generate employment in the care sector, develop skills and abilities, and reduce the wage gap. The establishment of a National Care System would contribute to creating an environment in which women can access quality jobs and advance in the labor market.

Photo by:   Valeria Uribe

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