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Global Economies of Care

Without care the global economy could not function, yet care is rarely recognised as a key economic driver of value.

Professor Beverley Skeggs

This research theme will run from April 2019 to September 2022 and is led by Professor Alpa Shah.

The Research Fellow for this theme is Dr Shalini Grover.

If there is anything revealed by the global crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is how central a role care plays in global inequalities. This is not only a question of the decades of undervaluing our care workers (our health workers, our carers, our cleaners) or the stark ‘care inequalities’ faced by different communities across the world in access to care, but also how central care is for life itself. It is the question of the centrality of social reproduction – giving birth, bringing up children, running households, educating, looking after the elderly – for the global economy and how under capitalism this care is so easily hidden and devalued.

Without care the global economy could not function, yet care is rarely recognised as a key economic driver of value. Without care, workers would not be born, fed, educated and replenished. Social reproduction would halt. But care is not just a labour issue, not just caring for but also caring about. Care is about how we relate to others, the fundamental social relations that underpin our lives and survival. How we conceive of caring is also intimately connected to the politics we get.

The care theme at the LSE International Inequalities Institute is a space to examine the different scales, spaces and experiences of care. It is a forum to draw attention to the effects of the increased financialisation of care provision by national states, the privatisations of welfare states, and the distributions of care worker across the globe as a result of structural adjustment policies. It is also an arena to highlight and examine the conditions of all the multiple informal hidden economies of care, moving from global patterns of migration regimes to the intimate realm of household structures and moral duties. Crucial to this agenda is to explore the gendered and racialised inequalities and politics of care. Care is the crisis of our times and this theme will insist that we pay close attention to its significance.

 

Read more about 'Global Economies of Care'

Theoretical issues: 

This theme moves from abstract economic theories, through understanding social relations, political and legal structures to policy recommendations. 

1. Firstly, we enhance better economic understanding and ask how do we modify our current economic thinking in order to account for social reproduction. Fundamental to this question is how we understand value. Traditionally value has been located in the singular individual who engages in exchange in a market of commodities and labour. The care economy is global. The significance of remittances from care labour plays a major role in the global economy: according to the UN, migrants sent home approximately $600 billion in remittances in 2017, a figure that is 3 times all official development assistance. This generates relationships of global economic dependence that are frequently overlooked. What happens when the global economic model of abstract of monetary flows incorporates care? What happens to the model of the greedy self-interested individualist if we factor in the dispersed act of care giving? Care also enables the increased financialisation of everyday life. The major companies providing care in the UK for instance, are global multinational private equity companies. The industrialisation and privatisation of care will be subject to scrutiny, as differences between different care regimes are examined. This wake up call to traditional economic models will also address the significance of the geo-political condition of surplus populations (through war, forced migration), through institutional structures (nation states, care industries), asking who has a right to life, the ultimate question of social reproduction: How should we care for vulnerable children, people and populations? This also leads us to question “alternative” economic models, always asking where is “care” and social reproduction in Universal Basic Income (UBI) proposals. Do they assume that unpaid care is locked in by Universal Benefits? Who is likely to have responsibility? Does it re-traditionalise?

2. Secondly, we create spaces to investigate how social reproduction re-figures our understandings of class, gender and race. We know, for instance about social schemes that exist (in Holland for example) to encourage migrant women to undertake volunteer care work as a step towards national integration. As research has shown this places migrant women in the role of enabling European women to undo traditional gender and reinforce a racial and classed division of labour by allowing legal ‘national’ women to become workers in the ‘productive’ labour market, whilst migrant women are re-contained in another’s home for free. The theme will investigate the significance of migrant women’s labour to uneven gendered and raced development theories exploring labour deportability, pointing to the significance and routes of colonial histories of mobility. Equally we look at the role of male domestic-care workers and how they negotiate constructed notions of masculinity when engaging in forms of employment associated with feminised, stigamatised and low-status work.

3. Thirdly, we focus on the experience of care. In the Dutch case cited above the migrant women were highly resistant to performing care work in the households of other women. Just as the experience of carers in the UK shows high levels of alienation and high turnover rates of employment. The contradictions between caring for and caring about have long been documented and are growing. Furthermore, while “care” as a moral value is often understood as overwhelmingly positive, we argue for a more nuanced interpretation which acknowledges the associated layers of support, such as “caring with”. Care may also be experienced alongside violence, vulnerability, control, and in some cases coercion.

4. Overall we seek to think about care in broad terms in relation to the sustenance of life itself and all that is undervalued towards this end in dominant economic thinking and modelling. In this frame, planetary care will be central -  because without air, water and food, how can we live? The absolutely fundamental life infrastructure is being extracted and destroyed with little care for life. But so will issues such as political regimes which incarcerate dissenters seeking to draw attention to the oppression and exploitation of those who care.

The theme aims to develop cross-disciplinary perspectives, work with activist groups and policy bodies. Ultimately we want to put the issue of social reproduction at the centre of new economic thinking. To make it an unavoidable issue for policy makers, not just siloed in ‘welfare’ or women’s issues but to make it integral to all economic thinking, planning and policy.

This theme was initiated by Professor Beverley Skeggs and is now run by Professor Alpa Shah.

Our Projects and Publications News

  • Dr. Shalini Grover, an anthropologist and III Research Fellow won a British Academy Small Research Grant with anthropologist Dr. Thomas Chambers (Senior Lecturer, Oxford Brookes) on ‘Male Domestic-Care Workers in Globalizing India’ for 2021-2022. The project involves a detailed ethnographic enquiry into male domestic-care workers in India’s capital city, Delhi. It aims to address a substantive gap in academic and policy debates regarding paid and unpaid male domestic-care work. Specifically, it attends to how men negotiate constructed notions of masculinity when engaging in forms of employment associated with feminised, stigmatised, and low-status work. The research journey will track the ways in which labour precarity, workers’ skillsets and forms of labour brokerage are altering gendered expectations and the everyday experiences of male domestic-care workers. It will also elucidate how COVID-19 has impacted the employment opportunities of men in the sector, their relationships with employers and their sense of agency.
  • In July 2021, Professor Alpa Shah wrote an Op-ed for the New Statesman on an uncaring state in the aftermath of the custodial murder of Father Stan Swamy in India.
  • Dr Erica Lagalisse, an anthropologist and postdoctoral researcher in the ‘Global Economies of Care Research Theme’ won a British Academy Small Research Grant to develop “Solidarity and Care During the Covid-19 Pandemic”, an archive and publication platform that she hosted as editor at The Sociological Review in 2020-2021.  During 2021-2023 Lagalisse will bring together contributors to “Solidarity and Care” for a series of research workshops and a live conference leading to an edited compilation concerning Covid-19, caring labour and social justice, as well as a podcast directed to the public.  This collaboration will address the dynamics of race, class, gender in the social construction of ‘health’ and ‘safety’ during the Covid-19 pandemic; new challenges facing social movements during this current era of increased state control; questions of labour, capital accumulation, borders and social reproduction related to Covid-19; and the construction of ‘care’ and its workers.

  • In May 2021, Dr Asiya Islam led a major international workshop on ‘The Social Life of Care’ at the University of Cambridge, funded by CRASSH

  • Dr Shalini Grover, an anthropologist and Research Fellow in the ‘Global Economies of Care Research Theme’ joined The Ayah and Amah International Research Network with inter-disciplinary scholars from the UK, Australia and United States. The network examines the historical and contemporary lives of South Asian ‘ayahs’ and Chinese ‘amahs’, domestic workers who are child carers, nannies and wet nurses in private households in India, China and Southeast Asia.

  • In February 2021, Professor Alpa Shah published an article with Times of India on what we can learn about nature, care and joy from indigenous communities.

  • In August 2020, Professor Alpa Shah published an article with Jens Lerche in British Journal of Sociology (edited by Mike Savage and Poornima Paidipaty) ‘Black Lives Matter, Capital, and Ideology: Spiralling out from India.’ 

  • In July 2020, Professor Alpa Shah published an article with Jens Lerche in Transaction of Institute of British Geographers  ‘Migration and the Invisible Economies of Care: Production, social reproduction and seasonal migrant labour in India.’

  • In July 2020, Hindustan Times carried an Op-ed by Professor Alpa Shah and Jens Lerche ‘The Five Truths About the Migrant Worker Crisis’. A longer version is on the Royal Geographical Society Geography Directions blog (July 2020).

  • In May 2020, Dr Shalini Grover wrote a piece for Solidarity and Care During the Covid-19 pandemic platform: ‘Can Covid be a Game-Changer? Those Who Serve on the Frontline and Servant Loyalty During The Indian Mutiny of 1857.’ 

  • Professor Beverley Skeggs and Dr Erica Laglisse set up a Solidarity and Care during the COVID-19 pandemic public platform,  supported and produced by The Sociological Review that documents and reports on the lived experiences, caring strategies and solidarity initiatives of diverse people and groups across the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Our events and podcasts

We have hosted a set of lively well-attended events setting the ‘global economies of care’ firmly on the agenda of research, writing and activism on inequalities:

The Dawn of Everything

 

Speakers: Professor David Wengrow (Institute of Archaeology, University College London) and Professor Alpa Shah (Convenor Global Economies of Care Research Theme and Professor in Anthropology, Department of Anthropology)

Chair: Professor Francisco Ferreira (Amartya Sen Professor of Inequality Studies and LSE III Director)

In this event, Prof David Wengrow was in conversation with Prof Alpa Shah about his new book co-authored with the late David Graeber, The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity.

Watch the video

Listen to the podcast

 


Investing in Care? Private Finance and Social Infrastructures

Co-hosted with UCL Geography

Wednesday 07 July 2021

Speakers: Dr Emma Dowling and Dr Horton 

Discussant: Professor Bev Skeggs 

Chair: Dr Alpa Shah 

Social care is often seen as a drain on the economy, subject to a sustained crisis, which has been exacerbated by the covid-19 pandemic. Yet in the UK and internationally these services have attracted huge investor interest over the last two decades – from private equity firms and real estate funds to impact investors. In this event, we explored: Why has private finance come to play such a significant role in care homes, home care and related efforts to achieve social impact? What does this mean for the many people working in care and all of us who rely on these services? What alternative approaches could we promote that might address the inequalities of the current ‘financialised’ system?

Watch the video

Listen to the podcast


Good Girls: Sonia Faleiro in conversation with Alpa Shah

Wednesday 2 June 2021

Speakers: Sonia Faleiro and Dr Alpa Shah

Chair: Dr Armine Ishkanian 

Sonia Faleiro was in conversation with Alpa Shah about her new book ‘Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing’. A deep investigation into the death of two low caste teenage girls, Faleiro explores the coming of age, the failures of care, and the violence of caste, honour and shame in contemporary India.

Watch the video

Listen to the podcast


Mary Wollstonecraft and the Vindication of Human Rights

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Speakers: Professor Amartya Sen and Bee Rowlatt 

Chair: Dr Alpa Shah 

Mary Wollstonecraft claimed human rights for all. She overcame limited education and a background of domestic violence to become an educational and political pioneer, and one of the greatest thinkers of the eighteenth century. As well as her intellectual audacity, it is Wollstonecraft’s love for humanity, her self-proclaimed “ardent affection for the human race” that continues to inspire. This event explored how, despite a savage pandemic, economic downturn, and increasing isolation in both political and individual life, there is a counter-story of community building and education, of optimism and hope.

Watch the video

Listen to the podcast


Post-Divorce Intimacy in Contemporary Asia

Thursday 25 March 2021

Speakers/Participants: Allison Alexy (University of Michigan), Asha L. Abeyasekera (University of Colombo), Kay Cook (Swinburne University of Technology), Asuncion Fresnoza-Flot (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Caren Freeman (University of Virginia), Katy Gardner (LSE), Shalini Grover (LSE), Chaya Koren (University of Haifa), Livia Holden (University of Paris Nanterre and University of Padoua), Jayaprakash Mishra (Indian Institute of Technology), Quah Ee Ling Sharon (University of Wollongong), Kaveri Qureshi (University of Edinburgh), Tannistha Samanta (FLAME University) and Kailing Xie (University of Warwick) 

Chairs: Dr Shalini Grover (Research Fellow, LSE III) and Dr Kaveri Qureshi (Lecturer, Social Policy, University of Edinburgh) 

This workshop on divorce and its aftermath in contemporary Asia was based on a forthcoming edited volume. Rapid socio-economic changes across Asia, along with the unremitting emphasis on strong family values, make the Asian region an illuminating case study for research on divorce and intimacy. Across differences of class, ethnicity and race, and community, our volume seeks to examine post-divorce trajectories. Can the lived experience of divorce be a porthole, in the sense of a break with the past, a gateway between two worlds; or does it augment stark inequalities that are historically rooted? What can divorce signal about family formations, societal transformations, age and identity in globalizing Asia? Our papers explored how former spouses - including heterosexual and queer subjects, reconfigure themselves in relation to one another, and remap a whole set of other intimate relationships, to rebuild their lives after divorce.  

See the workshop programme here

Read the workshop report here


Households, Inequalities and Care: lockdown experiences from the UK, New Zealand and India - Inequalities Seminar series

Tuesday 09 March 2021

Speakers: Dr Alpa Shah, Professor Laura Bear, and Dr Nick Long

Chair: Dr Insa Koch 

This event explored how the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the need to centre an understanding of the household in policy-making and politics if we are to mitigate inequalities. It did so by unveiling the insights of immersive anthropological research on the impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns as experienced in the UK, New Zealand and India. It explored the inequalities, in particular an informal and formal care deficit generated by UK national and local lockdowns, along with the problematic assumptions about the household and community in COVID-19 policy interventions in the UK. The seminar analysed the success, but also the limitations, of bubble policies in the New Zealand as a strategy for allowing citizens to support loved ones living beyond their immediate residence whilst nevertheless preventing the spread of COVID-19. It highlighted the significance of the spatio-temporal division of households that were at the heart of the plight of the hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers who took to their feet and marched home when the lockdowns were called in India. Overall, speakers suggested alternative approaches to policy and politics grounded in anthropological insights and methods.

Watch the video

Listen to the podcast


Building a Caring Economy

Thursday 04 February 2021

Speakers: Madeleine Bunting, Professor Diane Elson, and Professor Lynne Segal 

Chair: Dr Alpa Shah 

The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has made us aware of an acute crisis of care that lies at the heart of global inequalities. Care has long been marginalised and neglected as a central part of our economy. It’s a crisis not just of care workers but moves from the intimate domain of our households to global planetary care itself. What is this crisis of care, how should we think about care, and what can be done to make care more central to what we value? How do we build back our global economy by putting care – care of people and care of the environment - at its centre? These crucial questions were addressed through a discussion of three major recent interventions: The Labours of LoveThe Care Manifesto and Creating a Caring Economy.

Watch the video

Listen to the podcast


Covid and its Impact on Domestic Workers: Continental Perspectives on Argentina, India, and the United Kingdom 

Tuesday 01 December 2020

Speakers: Dr Shalini Grover, Professor Louise Ryan, Dr Lorena Poblete, Dr Joyce Jiang, and Dr Neha Wadhawan 

Chair: Dr Alpa Shah 

This International Inequalities Institute seminar compared the experiences of domestic workers in India, Argentina and the UK to address three fundamental issues. It asked what the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed about the inequalities faced by domestic workers and dexplore how the impact of the pandemic on domestic care workers makes us reflect on the question of what is work. The seminar also investigated the implications of the pandemic on work relations between employers and domestic workers. The aim was to highlight, examine and compare the multiple crises and inequalities of care experienced by those who are essential to giving care across three continents. 

Watch the video

Listen to the podcast 


Classes of Labour: work and life in a central Indian steel town

Wednesday 11 November 2020 

Speaker: Professor Jonathan Parry 

Discussants: Dr Maxim Bolt, Professor Geert De Neve, Dr Nayanika Mathur, Dr Massimiliano Mollona, Dr Nate Roberts, and Dr Christian Strümpell 

Chair: Dr Alpa Shah 

How should we understand the human conditions of the Indian workforce? This event discussed and celebrated, Professor Jonathan Parry’s magnum opus “Classes of Labour: Work and Life in a central Indian Steel Town”, a classic in the social sciences.

Watch the video

Listen to the podcast


Care-work for Colonial and Contemporary White Families in India: A Historical-Anthropological Study of the Racialized Romanticization of the Ayah

Tuesday 07 July 2020

Speakers: Dr Satyasikha Chakraborty and Dr Shalini Grover 

Discussants: Professor Nandini Gooptu and Professor Swapna M. Banerjee 

Chair: Professor Alpa Shah 

Theme Introduction: Professor Beverley Skeggs

Watch the video

Listen to the podcast


Caring Forward: the global care economy and its future

Thursday 20 June 2020

Speaker: Ai-jen Poo

Chair: Professor Beverley Skeggs 

Acclaimed US labour organiser Ai-jen Poo spoke on the global care economy and offer a vision for its future. We have a complex relationship with care work. It sustains us and our entire global economy, but we often forget to consider who provides care and at what cost. Community organising, local and global campaigns, and efforts led by researchers, creatives and international organisations are focusing increasing attention on the alarming inequalities (re)produced by the global care economy. How can we challenge the conditions of precarity experienced by so many care workers around the world? How can we care forward together?

Watch the video

Listen to the podcast


The Labour of Care: work, law and finance

Tuesday 01 May 2018

Speakers: Dr Lydia Hayes, Kevin Lucas, Dr Insa Koch and Professor Nicola Lacey

Chair: Professor Beverley Skeggs 

Caring is one of the most pressing concerns for anyone who is a parent, ageing, less able, and/or looking after anyone who needs support, yet it is often taken for granted as an activity. This event focused on the consequences for care when the most basic human/e pursuit has been turned into a “for profit” activity. What happens when a basic social emotion is monetised? What does this mean for the future of humanity?

Watch the video

Listen to the podcast

People

Our research collective involves the scholars below who have all been major players in the field of social reproduction both in the LSE and beyond.

LSE - based scholars:

Professor Alpa Shah
Alpa convenes the Global Economies of Care research theme.

Dr Shalini Grover
Shalini is an LSE III Research Fellow working on the Global Economies of Care research theme.

Dr Erica Lagalisse
Erica is an LSE III Visiting Fellow working on the Global Economies of Care research theme.

Madeleine Bunting
Madeleine is a Visiting Professor in Practice at the LSE III who has just published a major book on care.

Professor Mary Evans
Emerita Leverhulme Professor, who has been working on issues of gender, care, respectability and work for some time.

Professor Nicola Lacey
Nicki is a leading feminist theorist of law and caring employment.

Professor Laura Bear
Laura is an anthropologist who works on India, around issues of care and infrastructure.

Dr Insa Koch
Insa recently completed a study of marginalised peoples and their survival strategies. 

Professor Naila Kabeer
Naila has been researching the relationship between formal and informal work.

Dr Ania Plomien
Department of Gender Studies, researchers social reproduction and political economy, specialises on Eastern Europe and is a member of the UK Women's Budget Group. 

Professor Deborah James
Department of Anthropology 

Professor Diane Perrons
Professor Emirita in Feminist Political Economy, Gender Studies. Is also a member of the UK Women’s Budget Group and was with Nicki Lacey on the Commission on Gender, Inequality and Power.

Dr Huda Tayob
Huda is currently working as a post-doctoral fellow on Susi Hall’s migrations research. She developed the “Infrastrutures of Care” network.

Dr Susanne Wessendorf
Assistant Professorial Research Fellow working on migration issues in the International Inequalities Institute

Dr Isabel Shutes
Associate Professor, Department of Social Policy examines the work, care, migration and social provision.

Dr Tine Hanrieder
Associate Professor, Department of Social Policy examines the work, care, migration and social provision.

Scholars outside of LSE:

Professor Beverley Skeggs
Beverley is distinguished Professor and former convenor of the LSE care theme. She works on care, class, and gender.

Professor Bridget Anderson
Bridget is one of the UK's leading scholars on migration and care economies.

Dr Camille Barbagallo
Camille completed a PhD on the political economy of reproduction and a SR Fellowship on maternal reproduction 

Professor Agnes Bolsø
Women and Gender Studies, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Professor Andreas Chatzidakis
Professor in Marketing, who is looking at monetisation and ethics in care consumption. 

Dr Sara Farris
Sara worked on the 2016 paper by Anderson, B. Worker, Helper, Auntie, Maid? on EU Migrant care. 

Dr Ana Gutierrez
Ana works on Latin American women migrants who take up domestic and sex work in London. She is currently based in Aberdeen.

Dr Jamie Hakim
Jamie is a lecturer in culture, media, and creative industries, who focused on digital cultures, intimacy, embodiment and care. 

Asiya Islam 
Asiya was working at LSE on issue of equality and diversity before she moved to Cambridge to finish her PhD on work. 

Professor Prabha Kotiswaran
Prabha is currently heading up an ERC grant  on "The Laws of Social Reproduction". 

Dr Jo Littler
Jo is an expert on motherhood and care. 

Dr Catherine Rottenberg 
Catherine just completed a book on neo-liberalism, feminism, and social reproduction. 

Professor Lynne Segal
Lynne has been working on a range of feminist issues in public and academic spaces. She is a leading expert on care. 

Professor Imogen Tyler  
Imogen has just completed a manuscript of how stigma affects marginal abjected groups. She has also conducted research on asylum seekers and is a leading researcher on motherhood.

Dr Simon Yuill
Independent researcher and software engineer, who has begun a scoping project on digital care economies. 

Professor Louise Ryan
Professor, Global Diversities and Inequalities Research Centre, London Metropolitan University works on ageing migrants in the UK and sustainable care.

Professor Rhacel Parrenas
A pioneer in global care chain theory, Rhacel is Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, University of Southern California, USA.

Professor Brenda Yeoh 
Brenda is Raffles Professor of Social Sciences at the Department of Geography, National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore. She is a lead expert and pioneer for South-East Asia, on transnationalism, care-work and postcolonial geographies.

Dr Thomas Chambers
Thomas is an anthropologist who looks at the intersections of paid and unpaid care work in the context of rural north India factory work. He is Senior Lecturer in Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, UK.

Professor Nick Mai
Thomas is Nick is a sociologist and filmaker whose work highlights the complexity of migrant life through his ethnographic films. 

Dr Lorena Poblete
Lorena combines research, with activism and policy, looking into Argentinian domestic workers and the laws governing their lives. She is based at IDEAS-UNSAM, AV. Roque Saenz Pena 832, Piso 6, Caba (C1035AAP), Argentina.

Professor Neetha N.
Neetha has long-standing research experience on the Indian state’s regulation (more so non-regulation) of domestic workers. She is based at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, 25 Bhai Vir Singh Marg, New Delhi, India.

We are keen to hear from anyone who would like to be involved in the future. We are interested in reaching out to historians, policy makers, legal experts and activists. This is a forum for diverse analyses on social reproduction.