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From Your (Wo)manInWashington blog
MOTHERS changing the conversation @

Kelly Coyle DiNorcia is the author of this post.  Her bio is here with another piece she wrote several weeks ago.

In the car the other day, I was listening to NPR.  Brian Lehrer was interviewing Robert Guest, the global business editor of The Economist and author of the new book, Borderless Economics:  Chinese Sea Turtles, Indian Fridges and the New Fruits of Global Capitalism.  Here is a quote from Mr. Guest that has been sticking in my mind, and I’m hoping that the smart and savvy readers of MomsRising and Your (Wo)Man in Washington can help me decipher it:

“When immigrants come in they create jobs.  You have all these women here who can go out to work because they have cheap child care from Mexico.  That makes a huge difference to America when you compare it to a place like Japan that doesn’t allow any unskilled immigration at all and women can’t go out to work.”

I guess on the surface, that is a perfectly true and perfectly innocuous statement.  The fact that American women frequently employ immigrant women who are willing to watch their children for a very low wage so that the American women can find paying work outside the home is fairly indisputable, at least in the northeast where I come from.  Yet, I don’t think the characterization of these women as “unskilled labor” is entirely accurate.

In Morristown, New Jersey, near where I live, you can go to the train station on any given day and find an immigrant man who is willing to do just about any unskilled work you are willing to pay him to do, like paining your house or moving furniture.  Yes, you don’t need an advanced degree or specialized training to diaper a baby’s bottom or bandage a skinned knee any more than you need one to slap on a coat of primer or carry a couch up two flights of stairs.  Even so, you aren’t going to find me at the train station picking up a woman to watch my young children anytime soon.  So maybe it isn’t quite as easy as Guest seems to think it is.

Finding the kind of childcare that we need – consistent, reliable, high-quality and affordable – is often simply a matter of luck and is by no means a given.  Luckily, it seems that someone in Washington is finally figuring out what we have known all along.  According to a recent Washington Post article, Nancy Pelosi recognizes that the child care issue is key to allowing women to fully assert their presence in the workforce, and has vowed to put quality affordable child care on the national agenda if she regains her position as the Speaker of the House.  Even if she isn’t successful in her bid, at least she is finally bringing the issue to the fore: for women to be able to work for pay while maintaining a good quality of life, not to mention their sanity, we need someone to take care of our children.


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