Towards a fairer, care-focused Europe



It took a pandemic to understand the essential nature of care and caring. It took a global lockdown to realise that care is embedded in every aspect of our life. And it took drastic social distancing measures to see that care is fundamental for the well-being of individuals and societies. Contrary to mainstream economic thought, the functioning, let alone subsistence, of our economy, social cohesion and social reproduction depends heavily on care. But more important than that,

[w]ithout care, there could not be culture,
no economy and no political organization”

(Fraser, 2016:100)

Today we may thus finally have come to a public realisation of society’s interdependence and the role of care for economic and social well-being. This realisation has undoubtedly reached the highest spheres of decision making. According to UN Secretary General Antonio Gueterres, the pandemic has revealed the “fractures in the fragile skeleton of the societies we have built [and] the
lie that free markets can deliver healthcare for all; the fiction
that unpaid care work is not work”.3 European Council President, Charles Michel, called for a caring society as the blueprint for the European Union (EU) to “[emerge] out of the
current crisis stronger, more united and with greater solidarity than ever” (European Council, 2020).4
More hands-on and frequently cited for her successful management of the crisis, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda
Ardern strongly promoted social solidarity and a care ethics
approach, encouraging citizens to mind the welfare of others and prioritising welfare over economic concerns.5
Not until the Covid-19 pandemic has care received so much
public attention


Barbara Helfferich

independent researcher and consultant on gender and co-founder of the European feminist think tank Gender Five Plus.

Dr. Barbara Helfferich has more than 20 years of experience in European policy making working in key decision-making positions in the European Commission as well as in the non-governmental sector. She is one of the 5 co-founders of Gender5plus, the first European Feminist Think Tank which brings together academicians, politicians and activists in the field of gender equality.

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About the project

The Foundation for European Progressive Studies and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung started a Social Democratic Initiative for the EU Gender Equality Strategy, placing the role of care work and care jobs in achieving gender equality at the center of our common activities. By raising the question: Does Europe Care for Care?, we endeavor to promote the cross-fertilization of progressive thinking on the issue of care between stakeholders throughout Europe. Building on our network of care experts, we identify common challenges and possible good practices across countries, and draw concrete policy recommendations with the objective of feeding into concrete measures on both national and EU levels.

Find out more about the project