(CN) — California Governor Gavin Newsom shared a stage Monday with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, touting his state’s investments in the care economy during this year’s Clinton Global Initiative.
Newsom spoke during a session focused on caregivers, called “the base of the economic pyramid.” Moderating the session, Clinton said the economy is built on a foundation of caregivers — a group that works 16.2 billion hours a day without pay.
Clinton pointed to California’s recent $2 billion infusion for child care for low-income families and a 2019 bump for paid family leave from six to eight weeks. He called the latter a down payment on what he wants to one day expand to six months.
“We did it because we had intention,” Newsom said. “We did it because it needed to be done.”
Newsom also praised organized labor, which he said is empowering the workforce and heightening the consciousness of the Legislature on the issue.
The Clinton Global Initiative draws new and established leaders to make and implement solutions to the world’s issues. It works with its partners to design Commitments to Action, which are specific, measurable steps in growth, health equity, climate resilience and inclusive economic recovery.
“We need solutions,” Clinton said. “We need to know these things can work.”
Newsom said that what he learned during his gubernatorial campaign changed his mind, and that affected his policies. He said 85% of the human brain has developed by age five.
That led Newsom to make general fund commitments he said were then enhanced by the Legislature. He added that nothing prepared him for the power of organized labor in this area.
A conversation about wages and dignity is part of the caregiver discussion, Newsom said.
Pivoting to the need for caregivers, Newsom said recruiting for that sector is the biggest challenge. He wants people to look forward to joining that sector instead of using it as a job to rely on if needed.
Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, shared the stage with Clinton and Newsom. He said many caregivers are Black and brown women who are paid almost poverty wages. To combat this, philanthropic organizations should reassess where their funding goes. Some “agitators” and “troublemakers” should receive funding while certain legacy groups should no longer get money.
“For me, this is deeply personal,” Walker said, referring to his mother who was a caregiver.
Walker, who grew up poor, said he wanted to imagine a childhood where a kid didn’t need to worry about a parent picking him up because their car had been repossessed. He didn’t want that child finding an eviction notice when returning home on a given day.
Growing up poor gave him a lived experience many people in the higher levels of nonprofit work don’t have, he said.
Ai-Jen Poo, president and executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Caring Across Generations, said every aspect of the economy is the tip of an iceberg. The foundation is beneath the water.
“And that foundation is care,” she said. She added: “Care is the foundation of the economy.”
Caregivers are undervalued and undersupported, though the demand for them is skyrocketing. By 2030, 2.3 billion people will need caregivers, she said.
Newsom referred to the “silver tsunami” in his state, noting California’s aging population. He said the role of caregiver has historically fallen on women, and that men need to shoulder their share.
“Well, that’s amen, amen,” Clinton said.
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