The Un­fin­ished Rev­o­lu­tion

On Mar­i­lyn War­ing and the gross do­mes­tic hoax

The Monthly (Australia) - - MAY 2018 - by Anne Manne

The rea­son that the fem­i­nist rev­o­lu­tion is un­fin­ished is right there un­der our noses: women’s un­paid work. As Mar­i­lyn War­ing once said, “What we don’t count, counts for noth­ing.”

Mar­i­lyn War­ing is down on her hands and knees in front of me. She is show­ing me what she did while car­ing for her fa­ther, who was suf­fer­ing from ter­mi­nal can­cer, when he fell out of bed. “My way used to be to go down on all fours, to say, ‘Dad, now put your hands on my back,’ and slowly, slowly raise my­self up while he was hang­ing on to me like I was a ban­is­ter, un­til he could get his hands onto some­thing else.” The per­son kneel­ing be­fore me is a pro­fes­sor of pub­lic pol­icy at Auck­land Univer­sity of Technology and is of­ten con­sid­ered the founder of the aca­demic dis­ci­pline of fem­i­nist eco­nomics. She was a No­bel Prize nom­i­nee in 2005, one of the 1000 women nom­i­nated around the world as part of a cam­paign to re­duce male dom­i­nance of the pres­ti­gious awards. In 1975, aged only 23, War­ing be­came the youngest ever mem­ber of the New Zealand par­lia­ment, part of the con­ser­va­tive Na­tional Party gov­ern­ment led by Robert Mul­doon. She could not have been a more rad­i­cal po­lit­i­cal out­sider: young, gay, fem­i­nist and fe­male. Her ex­pe­ri­ence in pol­i­tics was the ba­sis of her ground­break­ing book Counting for Noth­ing: What Men Value and What Women Are Worth, first pub­lished in 1988. It is a sharp-eyed anal­y­sis of how main­stream eco­nomics and the cal­cu­la­tions that are the ba­sis of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct – used as the univer­sal mea­sure of progress and a na­tion’s well­be­ing – ex­clude and make in­vis­i­ble women’s huge con­tri­bu­tion to so­ci­ety through their life-sus­tain­ing un­paid labour. These cal­cu­la­tions, she points out, at­tribute no value to na­ture and fail to take into ac­count the cost of “progress” on the en­vi­ron­ment. War­ing is now famous, and a re­cip­i­ent of many hon­ours around the world, and her fan club in­cludes the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist David Suzuki, the Har­vard econ­o­mist John Ken­neth Gal­braith and the fem­i­nist Glo­ria Steinem. “Mar­i­lyn War­ing forces us to see that ac­count­ing sys­tems cre­ate a form of slav­ery, and re­ward the de­struc­tion of the nat­u­ral world,” Steinem tells me. “Be warned: you will never see val­ues in the same way again.” On the 30th an­niver­sary of the pub­li­ca­tion of Counting for Noth­ing, it is time to con­sider afresh the is­sues she raised. I have come to the Vic­to­rian Women’s Trust in Mel­bourne to in­ter­view her. Ev­ery In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day, or when Aus­tralia Day hon­ours are handed out, we rue­fully ob­serve that, de­spite decades of fem­i­nism, equal op­por­tu­nity laws and a higher per­cent­age of fe­male ter­tiary grad­u­ates than male ones, we still have a gender pay gap and far fewer women in po­si­tions of power. We con­sider overt and covert dis­crim­i­na­tion, sex­ual ha­rass­ment and other bar­ri­ers to women’s ad­vance­ment. Yet the cen­tral rea­son that the rev­o­lu­tion is un­fin­ished is right there un­der our noses in ev­ery­day life: women’s un­paid work. For the mo­ment, how­ever, War­ing has her prac­ti­cal cap on rather than her the­o­ret­i­cal one. Slowly she rises, demon­strat­ing how she got her frail dad off the floor and tucked safely in bed again, his arms around her neck, car­ry­ing his weight on her back. Up­right again, she beams at me. Her mother has mem­ory prob­lems and could not look after her fa­ther, so War­ing took leave from work at AUT and be­came a full-time carer be­fore he died. Her love for both her par­ents is pal­pa­ble, but she ad­mits the emo­tion­ally ar­du­ous na­ture of around-the-clock care al­most broke her: “You’re never off duty … Ev­ery time you hear them about to fall out of bed at two o’clock in the morn­ing … You’ve got to be at their side be­cause it’s a hell of a lot easier to hold them up than it is to pick this very big man up off the floor. And you’re on your own to do that. My lit­tle 48-kilo mum can’t help me ei­ther. I’ve got to keep her right out of the way be­cause if he falls again she’ll get hurt.

“You no­tice, this is what you do …”

You no­tice.

Notic­ing what women do is at the cen­tre of Mar­i­lyn War­ing’s work. It be­gan in child­hood, when she ob­served the un­stint­ing un­paid labour that her mother and both grand­moth­ers did, in rais­ing their fam­i­lies, as won­der­ful house­keep­ers and beau­ti­ful gar­den­ers, and as lynch­pins of the small com­mu­nity of Taupiri. She speaks of them with warmth, grat­i­tude and hu­mil­ity: “These women worked re­ally hard and didn’t get a cent.” Her pa­ter­nal grand­mother was the fo­cal point of all the vol­un­teer work. “In a vil­lage like Taupiri we sur­vived on vol­un­tary work. If you had to paint lines on the ten­nis court or on the ath­letic track, no­body was be­ing paid for it … peo­ple vol­un­teered.” Ev­ery­one knew ev­ery­one else’s busi­ness. The whole vil­lage turned up to en­joy the school con­cert. That close-knit com­mu­nity en­abled a time of free­dom while War­ing was young. The chil­dren “ran as a mob”, with the War­ing sib­lings en­listed to make up teams for ev­ery kind of sport. In warm sum­mers, they floated down the river in rough-hewn ca­noes they had made from nail­ing cor­ru­gated iron to planks. War­ing re­mem­bers Taupiri as “beau­ti­ful”. Nes­tled among lush green hills on the banks of the river Waikato, it sits be­neath a moun­tain where there is a Maori burial ground. “Taupiri is the burial ground for the Tainui peo­ple, and so I was very in­flu­enced by in­dige­nous val­ues, and how they viewed the land, for­est, rivers. “The lingo we kids yelled at each other as we tore around the place had loads of Maori words in it, and it never oc­curred to me it was a dif­fer­ent lan­guage. The holism of my child­hood in­flu­enced me enor­mously.” War­ing, the daugh­ter of a butcher, was the first per­son from ei­ther side of her fam­ily to go to univer­sity. She stud­ied po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics at Vic­to­ria Univer­sity of Welling­ton; in that city she first ex­pe­ri­enced the clash be­tween her home-town val­ues and what was of­fi­cially val­ued. She also had a fine so­prano voice, and her par­ents hoped she would be­come a clas­si­cal singer. Her choir­mas­ter in Welling­ton thought she would have achieved na­tional, and

per­haps even in­ter­na­tional, stature. Life, how­ever, took a dif­fer­ent turn. War­ing be­came an ac­ci­den­tal politi­cian. She was a can­di­date for the Na­tional Party only be­cause the New Zealand Women’s Elec­toral Lobby wanted to stand fe­male can­di­dates, even if they lost. Only 13 women had been elected in all of New Zealand’s his­tory. “I thought I was do­ing my fem­i­nist ac­tiv­ity and it wasn’t go­ing to be se­ri­ous.” She did not ex­pect to win pre­s­e­lec­tion in the very safe seat of Raglan, fiercely con­tested by nine older, high-sta­tus lo­cal men and one other woman be­fore an all-male com­mit­tee. How­ever, un­usu­ally for that time, her fa­ther “thought girls could do any­thing” and gath­ered enough sig­na­tures for her to join the pre­s­e­lec­tion process. War­ing had fin­ished her de­gree and was a part­time par­lia­men­tary re­searcher with ac­cess to the li­brary. Ev­ery evening after work she went there to read three months of back is­sues of the “lit­tle lo­cal bi-weekly pa­pers”. After the pre­s­e­lec­tion com­mit­tee meet­ing, “the feed­back was that every­body was so im­pressed by my knowl­edge across the whole con­stituency”. Through to the next stage, War­ing made house calls to all of the 23 fe­male mem­bers of the de­cid­ing com­mit­tee. One del­e­gate, Kather­ine O’Re­gan, re­mem­bered the young War­ing’s visit ever after. When War­ing called, O’Re­gan’s tod­dler was act­ing up and she was bat­tling to or­gan­ise fresh baked scones, or­ange juice and tea for the men work­ing on her farm. Notic­ing that O’Re­gan was try­ing to do two things at once, War­ing of­fered to help by tak­ing the child out­side to look at the cater­pil­lars on the cab­bages. With the chores done, they sat on the steps and talked. O’Re­gan was im­pressed by War­ing’s quiet help­ful­ness and abil­ity to lis­ten. It was such an un­usual qual­ity in a politi­cian that she voted for her. This was the be­gin­ning of a long friend­ship. O’Re­gan be­came the mem­ber for Waipa after War­ing. (Raglan had been abol­ished.) Once elected, War­ing found par­lia­ment “a very rugged place to be”. Dur­ing her first and sec­ond terms she was one of only four women. In Three Mas­quer­ades, her book of es­says pub­lished in 1996, she broke her si­lence on her ex­pe­ri­ences in an al­most all-male par­lia­ment. While the men were old enough to be her grand­par­ents, more of­ten they be­haved like “pre­fects at a boys’ board­ing school”. She wrote:

Lunch could be a gross ex­pe­ri­ence. MP num­ber one: “How can you leg­is­late against rape in mar­riage? It couldn’t be im­ple­mented.” MP num­ber two: “That’s not the point, why should you be able to rape your wife in the bed­room but not beat her up in the kitchen?” MP num­ber three: “Then beat her in the bed­room and rape her in the kitchen.” Hon­ourable mem­bers: “Ha ha ha.”

Women were “ex­pected to laugh along, to ‘be one of the boys’”. Late-night sit­tings could be “phys­i­cally fright­en­ing”.

In the long, nar­row cor­ri­dors where they queued for vot­ing, “it was not un­usual for my 57 kg frame to be thrown against book­shelves or old leather couches as I ric­o­cheted from be­ing hit by some 100 kg hooli­gan ‘play­ing’ with his friends as we ran the coun­try”. Many news stories were not about her poli­cies but about Miss War­ing’s new hairstyle. Al­though War­ing is clearly a sen­si­tive per­son, she has a re­silience too, a clear-sighted abil­ity to an­a­lyse and put things in per­spec­tive. The stories of Vic­to­rian premier Joan Kirner and Demo­crat sen­a­tor Ja­nine Haines from South Aus­tralia made her re­alise that per­sonal crit­i­cisms were not just di­rected at her. “No, this is hap­pen­ing to all of us. It took a while for that to get through but it gave me more back­bone … No, this isn’t me. This is how they are be­hav­ing around the world.” While the men in par­lia­ment were old enough to be her grand­par­ents, more of­ten they be­haved like “pre­fects at a boys’ board­ing school”.

By 1978, in her sec­ond term, War­ing was the only woman in the Na­tional Party cau­cus. Mul­doon needed to “do some­thing strik­ing with me”, but a cabi­net post wasn’t on the cards for some­one so in­de­pen­dent. He ap­pointed War­ing chair­per­son of the pow­er­ful Pub­lic Ex­pen­di­ture Com­mit­tee. Barry Gustafson, in His Way: A Bi­og­ra­phy of Robert Mul­doon, writes that Mul­doon knew “that she had the in­tel­lec­tual ca­pac­ity and drive to cope with com­plex in­ves­ti­ga­tion and anal­y­sis. He was also well aware that she would not be in­tim­i­dated by min­is­ters or se­nior of­fi­cials.” For War­ing it was less about pres­tige and more the power of “ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion”. In this role she saw how in­vis­i­ble and mar­ginal women were to the pol­icy process, even though they were pro­foundly af­fected by the de­ci­sions the men were making. Work­ing with Labour MP Ann Her­cus, War­ing asked for in­for­ma­tion about women, be­fore putting ques­tions to min­is­ters in par­lia­ment so the facts would en­ter the pub­lic do­main. It was the first time, War­ing tells me, that the com­mit­tee had de­manded data of ev­ery agency specif­i­cally on women. At­tend­ing the World Con­fer­ence on Women in Copen­hagen in 1980 was “the next re­ally ma­jor change” in War­ing’s con­scious­ness-rais­ing. Al­though the pro­choice War­ing was un­pop­u­lar with Catholics and con­ser­va­tives, Mul­doon had no op­tion but to send the only woman then in gov­ern­ment as part of the del­e­ga­tion. Con­fronting the reality of women’s lives around the globe, War­ing sud­denly saw that the in­vis­i­bil­ity of un­paid fe­male labour was a much big­ger hu­man rights

“As a fem­i­nist of the 1970s, dis­ci­pline by dis­ci­pline, we were un­cov­er­ing the ways in which male ex­pe­ri­ence spoke for all. I sus­pected eco­nomics would be the same, and yes it was.”

is­sue than moth­er­ing and house­work. Women sub­sis­tence farm­ers worked from be­fore dawn un­til after dark, car­ry­ing wa­ter and fire­wood long dis­tances, car­ing for fam­i­lies in con­di­tions of poverty, but only their hus­bands were con­sid­ered farm­ers. War­ing saw the im­por­tance of lan­guage in re­fram­ing things, of get­ting “your foot in the door” to fur­ther trans­for­ma­tion for “the next fem­i­nist com­ing be­hind”. One con­fer­ence doc­u­ment talked about the coloni­sa­tion and ex­ploita­tion of and dis­crim­i­na­tion against the global South by the North. War­ing slipped in a para­graph about the ex­ploita­tion of women, ar­gu­ing that they were dis­crim­i­nated against be­cause the value of their un­paid care and house­hold and re­pro­duc­tive work was made in­vis­i­ble. While the idea that re­pro­duc­tion was work proved a stick­ing point for the com­mit­tee work­ing on the fi­nal doc­u­ment, “the phrase ‘men don’t die in child­birth’ rock­eted around the whole place,” War­ing says. “Around the world, ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity was huge.” The chair, a “real United Na­tions pro from Mex­ico”, said flatly, “It’s hard labour.” The phrase was left in. Al­though not a lot had yet changed, “un­paid work was in the air now, you know, just that – the crack,” War­ing tells me. “Dear old Leonard Co­hen: ‘There’s a crack in ev­ery­thing, that’s how the light gets in.’” Back in New Zealand, as chair­per­son of the Pub­lic Ex­pen­di­ture Com­mit­tee, she had the author­ity to call Trea­sury to find out why GDP ex­cluded women’s un­paid work. “So this guy comes over to talk to me. He was very special. One of his open­ing re­marks was ‘You’re re­ally on to some­thing, Mar­i­lyn.’ There was a pause and he said, ‘My wife gave me The Women’s Room for Christ­mas. I’ve read it.’ As if to say, ‘I’m not here to op­pose you. I’ve got some sen­si­tiv­ity around this.’” The newly sen­si­tive Trea­sury of­fi­cial told War­ing that all GDP for­mu­la­tion came from the Sys­tem of Na­tional Ac­counts. “‘Right,’ I said, ‘I want to see the rules then. Can you get me a copy?’” It turned out there was no copy in the en­tirety of New Zealand. “Be­cause we have this in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex, I can re­mem­ber say­ing to him straight away, ‘Then get them for me from Aus­tralia.’ Within a fort­night he tells me there’s no copy of them in Aus­tralia ei­ther.” War­ing was in­cred­u­lous. “So all these na­tions are us­ing the United Na­tions Sys­tem of Na­tional Ac­counts, these rules that run the whole of the data that ev­ery­one uses, with­out any­one hav­ing read them … That’s what we call pro­pa­ganda.” War­ing’s time in par­lia­ment, how­ever, was com­ing to an end. Since 1981, she had ad­vo­cated for New Zealand to be­come a nu­clear-free zone. When the Labour Party spon­sored a move in June 1984 to ban nu­clear war­ships en­ter­ing New Zealand wa­ters, the Na­tional Party gagged War­ing in the house de­bate. Ou­traged, War­ing in­formed Mul­doon that while she would not deny the gov­ern­ment on con­fi­dence or sup­ply she would cross the floor on this is­sue. The gov­ern­ment had a one-seat ma­jor­ity. War­ing has de­scribed Mul­doon as “a bully”. Barry Gustafson pieced to­gether what hap­pened next through in­ter­views with the par­tic­i­pants. The prime min­is­ter was fu­ri­ous, telling the chief whip, Don McKin­non, that War­ing was “un­hinged” and that he didn’t know how he could gov­ern the coun­try “with a girl like this”. War­ing was sum­moned to a late-night meet­ing. In an un­com­pro­mis­ing mood, she changed into a track­suit and sneak­ers, and ar­rived armed with an ap­ple. Mul­doon had been drink­ing heav­ily. His open­ing salvo was “What the fuck do you think you are do­ing now, you per­verted lit­tle liar?” War­ing re­turned fire: “Those words leave your lips again and I’ll sue the shit out of you!” She took off her sneak­ers, put her socked feet on the cof­fee ta­ble and bit into her ap­ple. Sev­eral other party mem­bers present were a “stunned, even hor­ri­fied au­di­ence” to the tor­rent of vi­tu­per­a­tive abuse that then poured from Mul­doon, de­spite War­ing’s vis­i­ble dis­tress. Faced with War­ing’s de­fi­ance, an ob­vi­ously drunk Mul­doon called a snap elec­tion. It was quickly dubbed “the schnapps elec­tion”. On July 14, Mul­doon and the Na­tional Party lost in a land­slide. The new prime min­is­ter, David Lange of the Labour Party, made New Zealand a nu­clear-free zone and was sub­se­quently nom­i­nated for a No­bel Peace Prize. In her pref­ace to the sec­ond edi­tion of Counting for Noth­ing, Glo­ria Steinem re­marks on the irony of War­ing’s in­vis­i­bil­ity in Lange’s nom­i­na­tion, given that it was her ac­tions in de­fy­ing Mul­doon that re­sulted in the change in pol­icy. To heal from the bru­tal ex­pe­ri­ence of pol­i­tics, War­ing turned to na­ture and an­i­mals, be­com­ing a goat farmer on a prop­erty north of Auck­land. De­scrib­ing how af­fec­tion­ate and mis­chievous her goats were, con­stantly caus­ing may­hem by es­cap­ing into neigh­bours’ fields, her face breaks open with plea­sure. War­ing is hon­est about the trauma of po­lit­i­cal life. Her moral clar­ity, the abil­ity to see through what she calls the “mas­quer­ade of equal­ity”, comes from an un­usual de­gree of em­pa­thy. There is a price to be paid for that – vul­ner­a­bil­ity. Yet she also has a sturdy kind of bal­ance, a psy­cho­log­i­cal poise that en­ables her to see that pol­i­tics also “opened a lot of doors that wouldn’t have opened”. One of those doors was trav­el­ling to New York, prior to be­com­ing a farmer, to in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther the ex­clu­sion of

An Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics study in 2014 re­vealed that un­paid work in Aus­tralia was worth $434 bil­lion, equiv­a­lent to 43.5 per cent of GDP.

women’s un­paid work from the United Na­tions Sys­tem of Na­tional Ac­counts. “As a fem­i­nist of the 1970s, dis­ci­pline by dis­ci­pline, we were un­cov­er­ing the ways in which male ex­pe­ri­ence spoke for all,” War­ing said dur­ing a speech in Mel­bourne in 2016. “I sus­pected eco­nomics would be the same, and yes it was.” War­ing ex­pected to find one slim lit­tle vol­ume of rules. In­stead, she tells me, there were “one and a half en­cy­clopaedic shelves”. War­ing sat down and read “the whole bloody lot of them”. The as­sis­tant li­brar­ian told her that in the en­tire 21 years she had worked there no one, apart from the au­thor, Richard Stone, ever turned up to read them. And yet ev­ery coun­try was de­pen­dent on those rules. War­ing dis­cov­ered that the “rules” did not count com­mu­nity or vol­un­tary work. Women’s un­paid labour – like the work women did on the farms of Taupiri – was cru­cial to an en­ter­prise’s sur­vival, yet was not counted. Nor was house­work, or the care of chil­dren, the el­derly, the sick or those with a dis­abil­ity. Read­ing the 1953 edi­tion, War­ing came upon the pas­sage that ca­su­ally dis­missed all the un­paid labour tra­di­tion­ally done by women as “of lit­tle or no im­por­tance”, jus­ti­fy­ing its ex­clu­sion from the Sys­tem of Na­tional Ac­counts. How did she feel when she read that? “Oh ter­ri­ble. Ter­ri­ble … I wept when I came across this para­graph.” Of the anger she felt, she says “as long as it doesn’t go dark, you know, it’s a huge en­ergy if you can use it”. The famous econ­o­mist John Ken­neth Gal­braith was an early sup­porter. In a 1998 in­ter­view with Dr Cathy Ca­vanaugh from Canada’s Athabasca Univer­sity, War­ing de­scribes how she was “de­lighted that he was in­ter­ested in my work” and poked fun at her­self for want­ing his ap­proval: “How­ever fem­i­nist you try to be, there are still old knee-jerk re­ac­tions like seek­ing per­mis­sion from the ‘great man’.” She got it. Gal­braith told her to stop try­ing to find de­fin­i­tive work on the ques­tion of un­paid labour be­cause there was none. “You know enough, you write it.” Set­tling in Kather­ine O’Re­gan’s beach house for the win­ter, War­ing wrote Counting for Noth­ing. Gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, in ex­clud­ing the un­paid labour of one gender, War­ing tells me, is based upon “an ide­ol­ogy of ap­plied pa­tri­archy”. Be­cause GDP only looks at ac­tiv­i­ties in the mar­ket­place it counts the work of drug deal­ers but not of hos­pice vol­un­teers, the pro­duc­tion of nu­clear weapons but not women’s un­paid work. Hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties of great value are made in­vis­i­ble, treated as val­ue­less. One of War­ing’s famous ex­am­ples is breast­feed­ing. De­spite all we know about the ben­e­fits of breast milk, War­ing pointed out that the more man­u­fac­tured for­mula milk re­places breast­feed­ing, the more it adds to GDP. Since GDP is equated with progress, a loss is de­fined as a gain. Long be­fore our so­ci­eties be­gan to come to terms with cli­mate change, War­ing had al­ready pointed out the ter­ri­ble con­se­quences of not valu­ing our en­vi­ron­ment. Eco­nomics did not count the preser­va­tion for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of our ir­re­place­able nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment: air that is safe to breathe, clean and plen­ti­ful wa­ter, and pris­tine, un­dam­aged ecosys­tems. In­stead it counted and val­ued all those ac­tiv­i­ties – the work of pol­lut­ing in­dus­tries and coalmines, even the clean-up of oil spills – that placed it in peril. War­ing’s book sold into the north­ern hemi­sphere un­der the ti­tle If Women Counted: A New Fem­i­nist Eco­nomics to rave re­views. It was trans­lated into Span­ish, Ja­panese and Nor­we­gian. In the United King­dom there were re­views in “all the main places like the Fi­nan­cial Times, and The Econ­o­mist ran half a page on it”. In the United States it be­came a New York Times no­table. War­ing still seems sur­prised. “It was an amaz­ing re­cep­tion for a book that I thought wouldn’t be a gen­eral read.” She wrote the book with many con­crete ex­am­ples, with­out “wheel­bar­row words”, hop­ing that “my mother could un­der­stand ev­ery sen­tence of it”. A doc­u­men­tary based on her book, Who’s Counting? Mar­i­lyn War­ing on Sex, Lies and Eco­nomics, di­rected by the Os­car–win­ning Terre Nash, be­came the high­est-sell­ing film the Cana­dian Na­tional Film Board ever made. In one scene, War­ing is de­liv­er­ing the Si­mone de Beau­voir an­nual lec­ture in Mon­treal. The cam­era pans over the shining faces of women in the au­di­ence as War­ing il­lu­mi­nates the value of their work. War­ing’s in­flu­ence was, and is still, sig­nif­i­cant. She has ad­vised govern­ments around the world and in­spired hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tions. The Sys­tem of Na­tional Ac­counts was re­vised in 1993 to in­clude more as­pects of sub­sis­tence farm­ing, partly in re­sponse to War­ing’s cri­tique, and re­vised again in 2008, but “what re­mained ut­terly con­sis­tent was what was not counted”: un­paid work. The Sys­tem of Na­tional Ac­counts made pro­vi­sion for sep­a­rate but con­sis­tent satel­lite ac­counts that give an im­puted value to this un­paid women’s work so it can be mea­sured along­side GDP. An Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics study in 2014 re­vealed that un­paid work in Aus­tralia was worth $434 bil­lion, equiv­a­lent to 43.5 per cent of GDP. Slowly, at least some main­stream economists caught on. After the dis­as­trous global fi­nan­cial cri­sis of 2008, French pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy “felt the ur­gent need” to “change the ways we mea­sure our eco­nomic per­for­mance”. He brought to­gether economists Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen and Jean-Paul Fi­toussi to re­ex­am­ine GDP in a high-level Com­mis­sion on the

Mea­sure­ment of Eco­nomic Per­for­mance and So­cial Progress. In the fore­word to Mis­mea­sur­ing Our Lives: Why GDP Doesn’t Add Up, a book based on their find­ings, Sarkozy wrote:

If we re­fer to a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the world in which the ser­vices peo­ple ten­der within a fam­ily have no value com­pared with those we can ob­tain on the mar­ket, we are ex­press­ing an idea of civ­i­liza­tion in which the fam­ily no longer counts for much. Who could imagine that this won’t have con­se­quences?

As Stiglitz told Jon Gert­ner of The New York Times in 2010, “What we mea­sure af­fects what we do, and bet­ter mea­sure­ment will lead to bet­ter de­ci­sions.” Among the com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tions was what War­ing ad­vo­cated back in 1988: the in­clu­sion of un­paid work in all Sys­tems of Na­tional Ac­counts. In her 2016 speech in Mel­bourne, War­ing re­sponded to the Stiglitz-SenFi­toussi com­mis­sion on the in­ad­e­quacy of GDP as a mea­sure of progress. “Well done, boys,” she joked, “you’re only 20 years too late!”

One prob­lem with satel­lite ac­counts is that un­paid work is usu­ally counted only at the min­i­mum wage for un­skilled work­ers over a 40-hour week, what War­ing de­scribes as “the ghet­tos where you find women”, rather than prop­erly valu­ing the skilled labour of high­qual­ity child care or elder care. War­ing now thinks time use sur­veys are bet­ter at cap­tur­ing both the gen­dered na­ture of un­paid work and its im­por­tance in un­der­stand­ing our stalled rev­o­lu­tion. Men do some of this work, but women do much more of it, and it is this un­equal load that is the is­sue. Aus­tralia was one of the first coun­tries to cham­pion time use stud­ies, but the Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics stopped do­ing them after 2006. Lyn Craig, pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy and so­cial pol­icy at the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne, is Aus­tralia’s lead­ing re­searcher into time use, and she agrees with War­ing on the im­por­tance of un­paid work. In July last year The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald de­scribed her as be­ing “at her wit’s end” with frus­tra­tion when the ABS de­cided not to do another sur­vey due to a pub­lic ser­vice sav­ings drive. “The ex­pec­ta­tions on young women and peo­ple in gen­eral to man­age ev­ery­thing, it is all too much, it threat­ens men­tal health and it should be made vis­i­ble,” she said. John Goss, an ad­junct as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor in health eco­nomics at the Univer­sity of Can­berra’s Health Re­search In­sti­tute, pointed out that “Our GDP and our so­cial and po­lit­i­cal com­men­tary fo­cuses on the three hours per day we spend, on av­er­age, at paid work … The five hours 20 min­utes per day [on av­er­age] we spend on un­paid ac­tiv­ity is seen as less im­por­tant … but our world would col­lapse with­out [it].” In March this year, Tanya Plibersek an­nounced the Aus­tralian La­bor Party’s com­mit­ment, if elected, to giv­ing the ABS the $15.2 mil­lion it would need for time use sur­veys in 2020 and 2027. Cit­ing the 2016 cen­sus fig­ures, Plibersek said the av­er­age woman did 14 hours of house­work and fam­ily or­gan­i­sa­tion per week and the av­er­age man fewer than five, while women did three quar­ters of the child care, and 70 per cent of car­ing for el­derly or dis­abled fam­ily mem­bers or friends. “The Aus­tralian econ­omy, Aus­tralian so­ci­ety, rests upon women’s un­paid work,” said Plibersek. “As Mar­i­lyn War­ing – the founder of fem­i­nist eco­nomics – once said, ‘What we don’t count, counts for noth­ing.’” Julie Smith, a fem­i­nist econ­o­mist from the Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity whose pi­o­neer­ing re­search has been in­spired by War­ing, shows that breast­feed­ing is worth an es­ti­mated $3 bil­lion an­nu­ally in Aus­tralia. It also takes time: hav­ing a baby adds about 44 hours per week to a mother’s ex­ist­ing un­paid work, and ex­clu­sive breast­feed­ing adds a fur­ther 20 hours. When Smith says “the in­vis­i­bil­ity of hu­man milk pro­duc­tion sig­nif­i­cantly dis­torts pub­lic pol­icy pri­or­i­ties”, she com­pares Aus­tralia’s 18 weeks of paid parental leave to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s rec­om­men­da­tion of breast­feed­ing for at least two years. Many work­places do not have lac­ta­tion rooms and even child-care cen­tres do not al­ways sup­port breast­feed­ing moth­ers, while those out­side the paid work­force are re­garded as do­ing noth­ing. Or con­sider the time taken to care for the frail el­derly. At one point in my in­ter­view, War­ing leaps up and lunges at the pile of pa­pers she has brought to my in­ter­view. She stabs at a vague lit­tle word tacked onto a well-mean­ing but wholly in­ad­e­quate list of care work like meal prepa­ra­tion and clean­ing up. She draws a cir­cle around it. The word is “etcetera”. “But I say, ‘I beg your par­don, what about my ac­count­ing, my ad­vi­sory ser­vices, my emer­gency ser­vices, my en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, my man­age­rial work, my ex­ec­u­tive work, my ad­min­is­tra­tive, sec­re­tar­ial and cler­i­cal work? What about ar­rang­ing, or­gan­is­ing, run­ning? What about wait­ing, wait­ing for the speech ther­a­pist to ring me back … Wait­ing for the hospi­tal ward to come back … Where’s all the trav­el­ling … and what hap­pens to your life and health?’ As the months go on, you can feel your own health de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. The stress is phe­nom­e­nal. I’m … think­ing to my­self, I’m a skilled, re­sourced woman, and this is break­ing me …” “That ‘etcetera’ is a real prob­lem.” Many other car­ers, tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for ev­ery as­pect of a loved one’s life, would agree with her. Dur­ing the cam­paign for the Na­tional Dis­abil­ity In­sur­ance Scheme, moth­ers of chil­dren with a dis­abil­ity, who were then re­ceiv­ing lit­tle if any sup­port from the gov­ern­ment, be­gan a “Mad as Hell” cam­paign. They chal­lenged pol­i­cy­mak­ers to “walk in our shoes”, gain­ing long-over­due recog­ni­tion for the labour of love that they per­formed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. While tax­pay­ers de­bated whether we could “af­ford” the $6 bil­lion price tag of the NDIS, we were making in­vis­i­ble this care work pro­vided to peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity by pre­dom­i­nantly fe­male care­givers. This care was val­ued by Deloitte Ac­cess Eco­nomics at $43.7 bil­lion in their report The Eco­nomic Value of In­for­mal Care in Aus­tralia 2015, while the

re­place­ment value of the whole un­paid care sec­tor was more than $60 bil­lion. The report warned of an ev­er­widen­ing gap be­tween sup­ply and de­mand, and pre­dicted that by 2025 less than half – 42 per cent – of those with a se­ri­ous dis­abil­ity aged over 65 and not in res­i­den­tial care would have ac­cess to an un­paid carer. In ne­olib­eral so­ci­eties, we turn more and more to for-profit care ser­vices. Paid care work­ers still suf­fer from our con­tin­ued ex­pec­ta­tion that care, hav­ing once been done for us for “free”, should still be done for love rather than much money. In an in­dus­try where cor­po­rate share­hold­ers in 2016 were rak­ing in $1 bil­lion in prof­its, fe­male child-care work­ers – the fem­i­ni­sa­tion of care has not changed – are paid less than $20 an hour for this skilled and im­por­tant work. That is half the na­tional av­er­age hourly rate. They earn less than clean­ers per hour. The re­cent na­tional strike by child-care work­ers showed just how ex­plo­sive this is­sue can be. In aged-care fa­cil­i­ties, it is the same story of ex­ploita­tion. The in­vis­i­bil­ity and de­valu­ing of un­paid work and care that War­ing draws at­ten­tion to has ac­quired a new edge. Car­ers out­side the work­force are in­creas­ingly seen as the equiv­a­lent of wel­fare bludgers. In 2016, the then so­cial ser­vices min­is­ter, Chris­tian Porter, com­plained that young car­ers of par­ents with a dis­abil­ity or men­tal ill­ness would cost tax­pay­ers $500,000 if they re­mained “on wel­fare” for the next 45 years. The as­sump­tion was that they were re­ally do­ing noth­ing. Yet if they didn’t do this care work, in many in­stances the gov­ern­ment would have to pro­vide a much more ex­pen­sive in­sti­tu­tional or nurs­ing-home place. The con­se­quences of mis­mea­sur­ing women’s lives can be dire. On In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day 2016, Time of Our Lives?, a report com­mis­sioned by the Mel­bourne Lord Mayor’s Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion, noted that 34 per cent of sin­gle women over 60, hav­ing spent a life­time car­ing for oth­ers, lived in “per­ma­nent in­come poverty”. In March this year, the ABC’s 7.30 pro­gram was show­ing that women in their late fifties were 50 per cent more likely than men the same age to have vir­tu­ally no re­tire­ment nest egg. That is not sur­pris­ing, given that su­per­an­nu­a­tion is a con­trib­u­tory scheme and grows with un­in­ter­rupted, life­long work – which has been the more typ­i­cal male pat­tern – rather than the more in­ter­rupted work pat­terns of women’s lives. Aus­tralia has among the high­est lev­els of fe­male part-time work in the world, usu­ally shaped around car­ing for chil­dren. The gender pay gap in Aus­tralia, re­vealed by the Di­ver­sity Coun­cil’s re­search to be a 17 per cent dif­fer­ence in life­time wage, is, more than any­thing else, a “moth­er­hood penalty”. As we wind up our in­ter­view at the Vic­to­rian Women’s Trust, I find out that after her fa­ther died War­ing took her mum, Au­drey, on an African sa­fari, and has brought the 92-year-old with her for this trip to en­joy the Aus­tralian Open ten­nis tour­na­ment. We worry briefly to­gether over the heat, but Au­drey sounds as tough as her daugh­ter. Glo­ria Steinem tells me, “Mar­i­lyn War­ing should be ad­vis­ing govern­ments and the United Na­tions on how to re­vise in­hu­man ac­count­ing sys­tems. She should be a world force.” She is right. War­ing is a gen­uine rad­i­cal. If her ideas were im­ple­mented they would rev­o­lu­tionise our poli­cies on women, work and wel­fare. Ac­tionAid, an in­ter­na­tional non-gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion work­ing on be­half of women’s hu­man rights, put her ideas into ac­tion with their “Making Care Vis­i­ble” cam­paign in Nepal, Nige­ria, Uganda and Kenya. The core el­e­ments were to “Recog­nise”, “Re­duce” and “Re­dis­tribute” care. By get­ting men and women to fill out time use di­aries, it found that men were more likely to recog­nise just how much un­paid work women were do­ing and its role in pre­vent­ing paid work. The women gained self-re­spect, while the need to re­dis­tribute care more fairly be­tween men, women and gov­ern­ment ser­vices was bet­ter un­der­stood. The un­fin­ished rev­o­lu­tion in Aus­tralia needs a sim­i­lar cam­paign around un­paid work. We need to recog­nise the sub­stan­tial im­pact on gender in­equal­ity, and de­velop a pol­icy frame­work that en­sures it is shared more eq­ui­tably be­tween men and women. Feminists have long said that the per­sonal is po­lit­i­cal. Es­tab­lish­ing gender par­ity can carry un­der­ly­ing as­sim­i­la­tion­ist as­sump­tions. Men are more likely to oc­cupy high-sta­tus, high-pay­ing and pow­er­ful po­si­tions; they are pre­sented as role mod­els to em­u­late. Women en­ter­ing pub­lic life are crit­i­cised for not con­form­ing to fem­i­nine stereo­types – for ex­am­ple, not hav­ing chil­dren. Yet at the same time, to be taken se­ri­ously, they must also as­sim­i­late to the male norm: drop­ping the pitch of their voices, min­imis­ing emo­tional ex­pres­sive­ness, adopt­ing tra­di­tion­ally male be­hav­iour pat­terns and keep­ing care re­spon­si­bil­i­ties hid­den … some­how to be­come less fe­male. As War­ing’s or Ju­lia Gil­lard’s ex­pe­ri­ences in male-dom­i­nated par­lia­ments show, some male be­hav­iour, far from be­ing some­thing to em­u­late, can be in des­per­ate need of chang­ing. While War­ing is one of the high­est-achiev­ing peo­ple I’ve ever met, she is with­out pre­ten­sion, kind, with a ca­pac­ity for hands-on prac­ti­cal care. Driv­ing home, think­ing about my en­counter with her, I sud­denly re­alise that I have just met a dif­fer­ent kind of role model, one who shows in her life and work what all hu­man be­ings might be like in a so­ci­ety where work and care-giv­ing were shared, in a world where women truly counted.

Women in their late fifties are 50 per cent more likely than men the same age to have vir­tu­ally no re­tire­ment nest egg.

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