Fair Care

Emma’s sto­ry, in show­ing the real­i­ty of glob­al eco­nom­ic migra­tion, rais­es sig­nif­i­cant ques­tions about glob­al ethics. The cur­rent sys­tem has many ben­e­fits: poor nations receive remit­tances from fam­i­ly mem­bers work­ing abroad, while rich nations are pro­vid­ed with a labor source for low-sta­tus work and with a mar­ket for goods used pri­mar­i­ly by low-wage migrants. Employ­ers encounter few, if any, restric­tions. The peo­ple who are hurt by the sys­tem are most often the work­ers them­selves, usu­al­ly undoc­u­ment­ed women, and some­times their chil­dren. Female work­ers are espe­cial­ly vul­ner­a­ble to wage theft and oth­er forms of exploita­tion, and are less empow­ered to speak up. In the absence of sig­nif­i­cant eco­nom­ic changes that would cre­ate bet­ter-pay­ing jobs for work­ers in their own coun­tries, what should we do? For a start, we can begin to val­ue care work as a social good, respect­ing work­ers and pro­tect­ing them from harm.

Nan­cy Berlinger 

Michael K. Gusmano

Co-Direc­tors, The Undoc­u­ment­ed Patients Project, The Hast­ings Center

Gar­ri­son, N.Y.

This let­ter was orig­i­nally pub­lished as a let­ter in The New York­er’s May 23, 2016 Issue. Please click here to access the orig­i­nal let­ter online.

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