Chapter 23 » 23.64

The individual and the community

Work and economic affairs

There is much work to be done which is not paid, but which is vital, desperately undervalued and undertaken to a large extent by women. I refer, of course, to caring for children and/or elderly disabled relatives and homemaking. The work itself is often hard, stressful, mundane and repetitive, unseen and unacknowledged, with low status. We need a transformation of our attitudes to this work, giving it all the esteem it deserves. Experience of running a household teaches innumerable management skills, but these skills are often not perceived by employers as useful to them. Self-image is extremely poor in this group, not because they do not make a contribution but because their contribution is not appreciated.

Another reason for the low self-image of this group is one of the primary indicators of status in our society – income. Caring for a family is unpaid and therefore low status… We must value the work done by carers in a domestic situation because it is essential to the wellbeing of individuals and the community; bringing up the next generation should never be undervalued…

Related to the unpaid caring work carried out in many families is the voluntary work on which our communities depend which is, by definition, unpaid. Without volunteers many of the statutory services would be overwhelmed…

Voluntary work gives the sense of being able to give something – whether in time, money or expertise – and that is precious to the person doing the giving. The feeling of having contributed, the satisfaction of a job lovingly done, is the reward. We should not regard voluntary work as of less value because it is unpaid and the rewards intangible, nor should we exploit the goodwill of volunteers…

Whichever sphere of activity we are involved in, we have to be responsive to the Spirit’s leadings and try to put into practice our deepest beliefs, for our faith is a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week faith, which is not excluded from our workplace, wherever that may be. Everything in the end can be distilled to relationships – our relationships with each other and the earth. Our work must benefit our relationships rather than damage them, and we must ensure that neither the earth nor other people are exploited. Caring, not exploitation, is the key.

Jane Stokes, 1992

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