Invisible Labor and Invisible Workers

We'll be back tomorrow with a new interview, but Lisa's work in international development made me think about what the objectives of international development, and that in turn made me think of the Gates Foundation. I've been reading a lot lately about how we value certain types of labor and the people who do that labor. The Gates Foundation put out their annual letter from Bill and Melinda Gates back in February and it addressed just that. They took inspiration from a question they got about what superpower they'd have: Bill, more energy, and Melinda, more time. 

Melinda explored how much unpaid labor (like household chores) women throughout the world do. The amounts vary from country to country, dramatically so between the developing and developed worlds. Wherever you look, though, women are doing more unpaid work, and the divide starts early, often preventing women in the developing world from being able to go to school.

From the Gates Foundation annual letter

She talked further about the Gates' Foundation on this issue to Lenny Letter (which I strongly recommend for fascinating interviews and personal essays).

Then, just the other day, I came across this story from Time about the work of Ai-jen Poo and her tireless efforts to get caregivers, including nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers to the elderly the recognition and rights they deserve, including founding the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

"Ai-jen Poo wants to make you see the invisible. All around you are invisible people -- people who are caring for others, parents, siblings, grandparents. Sometimes that's a full time job, more often unpaid; sometimes it's a part time or second job -- an enormous responsibility the moment they walk in the door at night. Sometimes caregivers are hired; other times families bear the burden. You may glimpse the faces of caregivers in the street, but Poo's goal is for you to see them for the unsung heroes they are."

Poo received a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant in 2014, and published a book in 2015 about the coming boom of elderly people. Her efforts focus more on recognition and rights for caregivers, the "invisible workers," in the United States, but it is has much in common with the unpaid labor Melinda Gates describes.