The structural changes of the population composition impose new challenges on the societies and add up to those already existing with traditional population structures. The population structural change shows that, as we live longer, in addition to lower reproduction rates, the usual population pyramids become box-shaped. The area difference between the box and the pyramid represents new population groups at the top of the age scale. These groups and their interconnections with the rest of the age groups impose infrastructure, institutional, and human capital challenges. Societies need to face these challenges and develop social and private solutions that promote intergenerational integrated communities.

The care economy refers to the elements and dynamics of the demand and supply of labor, goods, and services associated with the care work. The latter involves formal and informal care work. The International Labor Organization highlights that the activities involved overlap each other, as there are both direct and indirect care activities. The direct ones include personal and relational activities, such as taking care of children or ill persons, and the indirect ones include duties concerning, for example, cleaning and/or cooking.

The care economy has an important generational component, as it targets elders and children specifically, besides handicap and/or ill people of all ages. 

The goal is to update and expand these population groups’ options to meet their preferences. Reaching this goal requires the strengthening of the social fabric and its interconnections between different generations. 

Current Challenges of the Care Economy:

  • An aging population and the correspondent pressure on pension systems.
  • Population’ mental health current conditions, demanding mental healthcare services.
  • Tremendous informality and under and non-paid jobs, and many times under or unrecognized.
  • Female gender bias of the informal care working force. 
  • Information bias of help products. 
  • Deficit cities’ infrastructure.
  • Lack of proper human capital in the care sector.
  • Lack of support networks of the population’s groups demanding care.
  • Lack of public policies targeting handicaps, and therefore budgets are unstable. 
  • Lack of data collection regarding these groups.
  • Lack of sectoral standardization and definition concerning the care economy. 

Our center does research and data development on intergenerational topics, such as those pointed out in our mission. Among others, lifestyle, skills, income, employment, consumption and saving behaviors, and technology and recycling adoption. The ISRCenter proposes specific interventions and evidence-based public policies that promote intergenerationally integrated societies such as intergenerational tutorials programs, and memories digital banks. At the same time, it contributes to generating awareness of the need to change societies’ perceptions concerning the elders, highlighting their role as active members of their communities and institutions, and active participants and consumers of economies. Though maybe more subtly, there are also misperceptions of older generations regarding the younger ones. This center provides a platform to keep open intergenerational dialogues, feeding the public debate with evidence, data, and challenging prevailing approaches.

Concerning the care economy, the ISRCenter is working to produce policy briefs that propose specific policy interventions that tackle some of the mentioned challenges and includes the following:

  • Expand the quantity and improve the quality of the supply of care professionals. It requires further research efforts to socioeconomically review current conditions and estimate future needs of resources involved. 
  • Use the technology available. For example:
    • Upgrade training, including AR and VR training to improve empathy and soft skills. Better training improves care workers’ productivity and therefore, their salary. 
    • Telemedicine. It requires the recognition and guarantee of quality internet access as a basic need and universal digital alphabetization.
    • Develop digital applications that specifically allow and promote long-lasting intergenerational connections
  • Implementation and facilitation of public-private alliances that provide social housing schemes and public infrastructure to enhance inclusive cities that especially allow and invite for intergenerational connections.
  • Public-private alliances to provide edutainment programs aiming to boost and strengthen intergenerational connections.
  • Implement a specific target focus on the informal component of the care economy to scale up accordingly its formal training and certification. 
  • Develop standardization and correspondent regulation concerning goods and services provided within the care economy. 
  • Implement pilot measures mechanisms to assess quantitatively and qualitatively the supply side of the care economy at the production sectors level.