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The Reproduction of People by Means of People


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Speaker(s): Professor Nancy Folbre
Chair: Professor Gilat Levy

Recorded on 15 January 2014 in Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House.

Current understandings and analyses of the economy represent a partial picture. To provide a comprehensive understanding of the economy it is crucial to recognize that, firstly, the measurement of living standards should be expanded to include consideration of both the costs and benefits of unpaid work and intra-family transfers. Secondly, macroeconomic theory should acknowledge and measure the value of unpaid work as a dimension of output and expand its definitions of investment and consumption. Thirdly, public finance should focus more explicitly on both private and public intergenerational transfers.

This lecture applies a feminist perspective on the definition of output, income, and living standards to an alternative framework for national income accounting and budget analysis. This framework disaggregates flows of money and time devoted to the care of children, other dependents, the maintenance of adult capabilities, the development of adult capabilities, and luxury consumption over the lifecycle. By so doing it is possible to recognize the significance of all the work, both paid and unpaid, that contributes to national income.

Nancy Folbre is emeritus professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her research explores the interface between political economy and feminist theory, with a particular emphasis on the value of unpaid care work.

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