Solving the care crisis with public investment

Updated Friday, 20th May 2022
Dr Jerome De Henau, Senior Lecturer in Economics at The Open University, presents research showing that greater public investment in care can complement other urgent policy objectives.

This content is associated with The Open University's Economics courses and qualifications.

Care needs to keep growing, for early years and for middle and later life. Users, providers and governments agree that the present system is overwhelmed. But efforts to ‘fix’ care are constantly stalled by arguments over who should pay, and sidelined by bigger crises over health, environment and employment. 

Analysis of care’s role in the economy, and micro-simulations we have conducted for the UK, show that a large rise in care spending can be self-sustaining through its job creation and employee mobilisation. Solving the care crisis is part of the solution to – and not a distraction from – other global challenges of poverty, inequality and environmental sustainability.

Learning outcomes

Watch the trailer below for the seminar which took place on 30 November 2021:

PDF document Transcript 60.7KB

After exploring the seminar material, you will be able to discuss the principles that can underpin a new social care system and the benefits that may come from a care-led recovery. On this page, you will explore resources and video highlights from the OU Economics Seminar Series on the crisis in care.

What are the benefits that may come from care-led recovery?

Dr Jerome De Henau is a Senior Lecturer in Economics at The Open University, principal investigator on international projects for organisations including the ILO (International Labour Organization) and FEPS (Foundation for European Progressive Studies), and co-chair for policy on the Women’s Budget Group.

In this video he explores the benefits that may come from a care-led recovery. These include:

employment generation

reduction of the gender employment gap

contribution to a healthier, better educated and more productive population 

creation of a greener, more resilient and caring economy.

PDF document Transcript 84.1KB

What is social care for? 

Mary-Ann Stephenson is Director of the Women’s Budget Group, and a member of the Women’s National Commission.

In this video she explores the principles that should underpin a new social care system. These include: 

accessing social care on basis of needs rather than ability to pay 

a care system where one size does not fit all 

care systems are about supporting autonomy, dignity and enabling to fulfil our capabilities

care best delivered locally but funded nationally.

Transcript (PDF document62.9KB)

UK care sector

1 in 7 older people have unmet social care needs. The care sector runs on low pay and insecure employment.

A man with a carer.

Further learning materials

De Henau, Jérôme (2019). Employment and fiscal effects of investing in universal childcare: a macro-micro simulation analysis for the UK. IKD Working Paper No. 83, The Open University.

De Henau, JérômeHimmelweit, Susan and Perrons, Diane (2017). Investing in the Care Economy – Simulating employment effects by gender in countries in emerging economies. International Trade Union Confederation.

De Henau, JérômeHimmelweit, Susan, Lapniewska, Zofia; Perrons, Diane (2016). Investing in the Care Economy. A gender analysis of employment stimulus in seven OECD countries, International Trade Union Confederation.  

The Women’s Budget Group resources are available here.

In the quotes below, explore resources on the care economy. These quotes describe some of the problems in the care sector.

One third (33%) of parents using childcare say their childcare payments are bigger than their rent or mortgage.

50% of parents who used childcare said that paying for it had either had a significant impact on their family’s standard of living, or was just completely unaffordable; this rises to 63% of single parents.

Over a half (57%) of young women from low-income households said their mental health had become worse during the coronavirus pandemic compared to 49% young women from higher-income households and 42% young men of all income levels.

1 in 3 (30%) of furloughed young women from low-income households (£0 – £19,999) had their salary topped up by their employer compared to almost half (47%) of both furloughed young women from higher-income households (£40,000+) and young men from low-income households.

About The Open University Economics

OU Economics is about real-world economics: through a pluralist approach to the subject, we teach the analytical techniques and practical skills required to understand the world of production, employment, spending and borrowing, and the effects of government policy and technical innovation. Our economics degree programmes and modules are regularly updated to reflect the latest research and events.

The OU Economics Seminar Series promotes high-quality research bringing together academics to exchange, share and engage in dialogue with policymakers, practitioners, industry representatives and members of the public. With an ethos of inclusivity and respect for diverse realms of economic expertise, the seminar series will bring together those working on current challenges across a broad range of research interests: Social Policy, Personal Finance, Innovation, Macroeconomics, Development Economics, Health, Inequality and Employment, Philosophy and History of Economics.


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  • picture of Jerome De Henau

    Jerome De Henau

    (Department of Ecomonics)

    Jerome is a socio-economist, with research interests in economics of gender, labour and household economics, fiscal and social policy. Recently PI in a project for the Women's Budget Group, funded by ITUC (International Trade Union ...

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  • picture of Mary-Ann Stephenson

    Mary-Ann Stephenson

    (Women's Budget Group)

    Mary-Ann Stephenson has been active in the Women’s Budget Group for over twenty years, and was appointed as its first Director in 2017. Prior to this role, she was a freelance consultant specialising in women’s equality and human rights ...

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  • picture of Christina Laskaridi

    Christina Laskaridi

    (Department of Economics)

    Christina is a Lecturer in Economics within the School of Social Sciences & Global Studies, with a PhD in Economics from SOAS, University of London. Christina co-convenes the OU Economics Seminar Series, an inter-disiciplnary approach to...

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  • picture of Alan Shipman

    Alan Shipman

    (Department of Economics)

    Alan returned to research and teaching on the economy after it crashed in 2008, having (mis)spent years as an emerging-markets analyst, consultant and business journalist. Lucky enough to have been taught economics when capital ...

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  • picture of Susan Newman

    Susan Newman

    (Department of Economics)

    Susan joined The Open University as Professor and Head of Economics in March 2020.She has previously held positions at the University of West of England, the International Institute for Social Studies Erasmus University of Rotterdam, and...

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