The Care Economy
In 2022, the Lancet Commission for Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care released a paper titled “Estimation of the global prevalence of dementia in 2019 and forecasted prevalence in 2050: an analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019.“ This paper measured the global rate of change in dementia prevalence between the years 2019 and 2050. It also provided a breakdown of the regional growth rates, and provided the data at the country level. The results showed that the region with the highest growth in prevalence is the MENA (Middle East & North Africa) and eastern sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite the alarming numbers, data is lacking on the role of informal dementia care in the Arab region. We don’t know how much dementia care is costing us today, and more importantly how much it will cost in the coming decades. We don’t know what tasks informal carers are spending their time on, and how many hours they spend on each task.
It is also worth noting that the economic acknowledgment of informal care is an opportunity of opening up a new sector of the economy, therefore empowering the economy as a whole.
So what's the answer?
The care economy is the answer!
The care economy is the sector of the economy that is both acknowledged and unacknowledged by the GDP, and which involves the provision of care services for individuals, including children, the elderly, and those with disabilities or chronic illnesses. It encompasses both paid and unpaid activities, such as professional healthcare services, childcare, eldercare, and the informal care provided by family members at home. The care economy is essential for not only supporting the well-being and health of all sectors of the population, but also plays a vital role in more effective policy-making.
How do we establish the care economy?
The very first step in establishing a recognized care economy is in conducting what is called Time-Use Surveys (TUS). TUS are tools that track how people spend their time during a typical day. They help to understand patterns in daily activities, such as work, leisure, caregiving, or household chores.
When we have this information, it helps us quantify the economic value of these often-unseen and unrecorded activities by incorporating this value into what is called a "satellite account". A satellite account is a special type of accounting that provides additional information about a specific economic sector, separate from the main national accounts. This helps in recognizing and understanding the true importance of care work in the overall economy, which is often undervalued or overlooked in traditional economic analyses.
This recognition and quantification of care work is an essential step in acknowledging care-work and the care economy at large.
Why are we doing this?
A recognized care economy provides valuable insight into the lifestyle and priorities of individuals and communities.
Family caregivers are experts in their own right. They are an asset and resource that remains to be overlooked by the healthcare system. The gems of the learnings in family caregiving are yet to be captured by the healthcare system at large.
We think that as much as family caregiving is ousted by the current system, it remains to be a greenfield for innovation. –– This is what drives our work.
Who is behind this work?
We are a group of public health professionals, academics, researchers and physicians who believe in root-level change and recognition of family caregivers. Check our committee members here.