What Mothers and Other Caregivers Want

Findings of international survey contradict widespread assumptions as mothers/caregivers say they need and want more time and a care income.

In a survey of 1065 respondents from 50 countries, an overwhelming 84% said that caring deserves a care income. They wanted more time with their family, and to work outside the home part-time rather than full-time. While the responses summarized in the report reflect only the views of those who took part, they provide illustrative testimonials on crucial topics. Read the report in full here. The key findings are particularly poignant for mothers and are ripe for immediate action for change.

1. Caregiving is work that makes a valuable contribution to society.

2. Caregiving is often invisible.

3. The bond between mother and child is vital.

4. Most mothers would prefer to have more time for family and relationships, and to work outside the home only part-time.

5. Mothers and other caregivers would prefer to take care of their older relatives at home, as would the majority of people who rely on their care.

6. In no country did respondents think society values the work of mothers and other caregivers.

7. Caring work deserves a care income – that was the view of 84% of respondents!

As Peggy O’Mara, former editor of Mothering magazine, and survey working group, points out: “What emerged is in sharp contrast to the assumptions normally found in the media and among politicians.”

Background:

Mothers, motherhood, mothering, and caregiving are often referred to in public, but seldom are these conversations informed by the experiences and views of mothers and other caregivers themselves. When we do hear about mothering and caregiving it is usually in the context of how hard it is and how happy family caregivers should be that there are paid caregivers to look after their loved ones—whether they be children, those who are ill or have a disability, or older adults.

In 2021, the Global Women's Strike brought together a working group to design a survey to find out what mothers and other caregivers actually think, want and need. The group from Thailand, the UK and the US hammered out a questionnaire that made sense to caregivers from different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and countries with different state provisions. It was available in English, Italian, Spanish and Thai, and launched on International Women’s Day March 8, 2022. It remained open until May 2023.

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Who answered the survey:

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1065 respondents from 50 countries, the majority from the UK, the US and Thailand, completed the survey even though it took about 16 minutes to fill in, long for a survey:

  • 91% identified as women, 76% as mothers, half of them single.
  • Most were middle or low
    income, and 63% had a waged job.
  • About half identified as people of colour and half as white.
  • The respondents were self-selected and there were no incentives to participating.

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The importance of these findings:

They provide facts and arguments for all those campaigning against women’s poverty and overwork, and for caring to be based on what both the caregivers and the people who rely on their care want and need. The findings are accessibly and beautifully displayed with photos, facts and quotes.

Dr Laura Connelly, Sheffield University Sociological Studies, also part of the survey working group, comments: "Since the Covid pandemic the importance of caring work can no longer be denied. These findings provide an important insight for law makers and anyone interested in social change based on satisfying people’s needs and aspirations rather than market forces."

Selma James, founder over 50 years ago of the International Wages for Housework Campaign which coordinates the Global Women’s Strike that conducted this survey, says that the findings endorsed their demand for a care income for the work of caring for people, land and environment:

"84% of those answering agree with a care income. Around the world, mothers and other carers, in urban and rural areas, believe that their essential work should be valued and paid, but the resources have not been forthcoming. As a result, women, the primary carers and the poorest everywhere, have been institutionalized in the double day. This injustice must end."

 

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Some campaigns for caregivers:

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The last section suggests what actions are being taken to address the survey’s main finding: the provision of a care income. These include extending paid maternity leave, support for breastfeeding, child benefit, carer’s allowance, guaranteed care income pilots, and legislation that redefines work to include caregiving in constitutions and state provisions.