TIME’S UP CEO: Comprehensive care infrastructure is needed ‘to stimulate the whole economy’

TIME’S UP CEO Tina Tchen joins Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers to break down a new report for the organization, highlighting the need for investing in a robust caregiving infrastructure.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: We have TIME'S UP CEO Tina Tchen here with us now to talk all about how building up infrastructure for caregivers will help women. Tina, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us again.

You know, you and I were chatting in the break about the fact that I've been having this conversation a lot a bit recently with Reshma Saujani from Girls Who Code, and she's been on with us before. And we've been talking about this burden that women have been shouldering throughout the pandemic. How much is this burden of caregiving for children, for elderly parents, how much is that costing women?


TINA TCHEN: Oh, it-- we know it's costing them a lot, both because women are speaking out, but they're also voting with their feet, meaning that we've had over 2 million women leave the workforce during the pandemic since less than a year ago. Women's labor force participation is at its lowest rate since the 1980s.

So we are on the verge of wiping out all of the progress that we have made over the last several decades of women coming into the workforce. And it is because they can't manage caregiving, right? Schools are out. Child care centers have closed. Folks can't afford it. They can't be balancing going out to work and caring for someone at home. We've got elderly parents, as you point out, not just children.

This is about caregiving from zero all the way through to your elderly years, is what we need. And we need health care. We need paid leave. We need paid sick leave. We need that whole comprehensive infrastructure to help get women back to work-- and not just women. Here's the thing, Kristin. It's going to stimulate the whole economy. We need to make these investments if we want our economy to recover.

KRISTIN MYERS: OK, so I want to get into that in just a moment. But what would building up this caregiving infrastructure really look like?

TINA TCHEN: Well, what it would look like is several things. So first of all, we need to have paid leave and paid sick leave, a national policy. We are one of only two industrialized nations in the world that has zero policies for any form of paid family leave of any kind. We need to have a national paid leave, family leave policy.

We also need to support caregivers. We need to support making sure that caregivers have labor protections and, you know, with a living wage, so that it's not all just unpaid caregiving work. My dog supports that. We also then need to build up the caregiving infrastructure. So that means building up childcare centers that have closed during the pandemic. But they weren't sufficient before the pandemic.

So we need more childcare centers, and we need more facilities for our elders. We have a disproportionate use in this country of long-term care facilities, nursing homes, as opposed to investing in what would be cheaper and better for folks, meaning in-home care and community-based services, which is what most people want and will actually be more affordable and will keep them safer. We know so many people who work in nursing homes and exposed to the pandemic at even worse rates. That's what a comprehensive caregiving solution looks like. It's child care, it's elder care, it's self-care, it's paid leave, it's investing in our caregivers.

KRISTIN MYERS: Right. Now would some of those services be paid for by taxpayers or the families themselves? And when I say that, I mean, would we have free daycare? Some countries do this, where they provide free daycare for children up to a certain age, usually until they go to school. Or free elder care is also being provided in some other western nations. So would those services be free? And how much would this stimulate the economy if we made those moves?

TINA TCHEN: So some of it, you need government investment to build the infrastructure. One of the advocates has likened it to like you have to build the mass transit system, so that people can get things like the tax credits and, you know, the infrastructure, the payments, the pandemic payments that are in this American rescue plan that President Biden has proposed. But just giving folks cash isn't going to solve the fact that there aren't enough childcare centers available.

So we do need government investment to, as you point out, build affordable and where people need it, free childcare, free elder care, daycare centers for the elderly, for respite. We need to have supporting in-home services. Expand the Medicare program so that it will do that. But then we also need to empower people themselves. And that's what-- why President Biden-- and I'm so pleased has put in-- the expansion of the childcare tax credits and the earned income tax credits to make sure that people have cash in hand to actually also help support their ability to purchase childcare that they need and support themselves when they need it.

And then, finally, we need something like paid leave. And we need a mandate, Kristin, that will actually set up a social insurance program. You know, they've done that in California. We know that it works. You know, if you like the unemployment insurance program, tack on less than pennies on an employer tax that will build up a fund that will help actually help finance paid leave for everyone for those employers who can't afford to provide it themselves.

KRISTIN MYERS: Now, when we talk about some of those caregiving jobs, because your study shows that millions of those new caregiving jobs would be created, but when we look at some of those caregiving jobs, these jobs are often taken by women. And they're often taken by women of color. And frankly, a lot of those jobs are typically described as having poor job quality. They're described as having low wages, those home healthcare aides and nurses, for example.

How can we make sure that even with an initiative like this, that the creation of those jobs doesn't continue to exacerbate some of those problems that we're already seeing in the caregiving system, and that it doesn't continue to, in a way, exploit a lot of minority women?

TINA TCHEN: No, absolutely. But that's why part of what we are supporting, when we talk about supporting a comprehensive caregiving infrastructure, is investing in those paid caregivers. So that's why it's so important to increase the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour and make sure that caregivers are covered in that expansion of the minimum wage.

We need to make sure that caregivers come into the formal economy. So many of them exist right now outside the formal economy. They don't have the ability. Actually, caregivers aren't allowed to unionize. It's an artifact back to the New Deal. And we need to change that so that they can get labor protections, and we can recognize them for their workforce.

And here's the thing, Kristin, because we're talking about Yahoo Finance, this is a growth industry. We need the supply side of this industry to grow. There are four million babies born every year, and four million of us become senior citizens every year. We are going to need more capacity in the caregiving industry itself to provide quality care for everyone who needs it.

So if we compensate people fairly, we create a pathway and make it professional and provide people training and the ability to move up, this is an industry that can grow and is actually really ripe for investment and serious look at investing in it as the infrastructure that we need.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, TIME'S UP CEO Tina Tchen, always love chatting with you. And I appreciate you coming on to chat about this very, very important topic.

TINA TCHEN: Well, thank you--


--right now to push through transformational change on this issue.