Posted by: Sam Carson | 11 November, 2009

The Value of Care

The world in which I have been raised placed a value on things. The value of life can be weighed in several measures: love, respect, experience and wealth. However, the value of life’s outputs – productivity of one’s life – has more and more been valued through one lens; that of economic value.

Economic value, or the combined buying power of a family, the wealth encapsulated in salaries and savings. This single valuation of output means that some important parts of life, such as fun or experience, are only valued in terms of “number of toys” you have or the number of stars your hotel is.

It also means that important parts of society remain without value. Probably the most important is the value placed on caring for others.

By care, I am not talking about the attention we spare toward the things we do, or the people we interact with, at least not directly. I am speaking of the time spent dedicated toward looking after people: children, parents, siblings or other loved ones who require looking after.

If you define the day of a month of a newborn, whilst not an occupation, it would definitely fit under the heading “work”. It requires time and skill, it bears a high level of responsibility. It is an essential contribution to society. People who do it poorly are under risk of the law. Yet, in our society it has no wage, therefore no value.

I see this as a source of some of society’s failings. Without society placing a value on those who dedicate time to care for others, we remove an essential human aspect from our society. Without properly value, there is no overtly respectable place for those who decide to perform this important role.

Individuals might have the good sense to take on the role of carer with pride – but those who find themselves in that role without making the choice are left feeling as those they are doing a job that is not equal to paid work. It is this stigma that I wonder is the cause of some of the poorer examples of parenting which our newspapers find cause to despair – but not to understand.


  1. Good post!

    It’s rare for me to agree with anything here, but on this issue we’re on fairly close to the same page.

    The dichotomy of respect given between work-for-hire and other forms of enterprise has given rise to many of the social ills America suffers under today, poor parenting being just one of them..

  2. I, too, was raised in the value of care and remain saddened by the ethos spread by the ‘bottom line’ crowd. One doesn’t have to look beyond our political party system to recognize how this empathy or its lack breaks down across party lines.

    That anyone can stumble through life evaluating its’ outcomes on a material basis is a sad thing in its’ self, and is a travesty for any underlying social contract Canadians might imagine.

    Denominating life values in currency is frightfully easy; so that’s how it’s done.

  3. Doug,

    I don’t see where it breaks down across Party lines. Both ideologies see people only in terms of the “bottom line” and both tend to think in only material terms.

  4. Sadly, you are probably right, jonolan.

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