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Purple Economy: Understanding the Care Economy

Why is it in the news?

  • Recently, Shanti Raghavan, leader of EnAble India and winner of the 2020 Business Line Changemakers Award, champions a ‘purple economy’ for expansive disability inclusion and employment opportunities.

Purple Economy


  • The Purple Economy, also known as the care economy, embodies a revolutionary approach to economics, placing emphasis on care work, women’s empowerment, and autonomy.
  • It stresses the crucial role these aspects play in the health of economies, societal well-being, and the sustenance of life.


Components of Care Work

Care work, either paid or unpaid, can be broadly categorized into:

  • Direct Care Activities: These are personal and relational activities. Examples include feeding an infant or taking care of a sick relative.
  • Indirect Care Activities: Often referred to as domestic work, these involve tasks like cooking, cleaning, and other household chores.

Paid Care Work

  • Paid care work comprises occupations where professionals offer direct care or facilitate the preconditions required for caregiving. It includes nurses, childminders, elderly care assistants, domestic helpers, and cooks.
  • The majority of paid care workers are women, with a notable percentage being migrants or those from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

Unpaid Care and Domestic Work

  • This refers to care provided without a monetary reward, primarily within homes and communities.
  • Care tasks are performed in a myriad of environments – public and private institutions, non-profit organizations, and private residences.
  • A significant portion of the global care work is shouldered by unpaid caregivers, predominantly women and girls.

Challenges Confronting Care Workers

  • Economic Recognition: Despite its indispensable value, unpaid care is often sidelined by conventional economic paradigms. It doesn’t find its due recognition in policy frameworks or national economic accounts.
  • Gender Disparity: The costs, in terms of missed wages and lost opportunities, disproportionately burden women and girls, thereby perpetuating gender inequalities.
  • Pandemic Impact: The recent COVID-19 crisis has further intensified these challenges, shedding light on the already existing disparities and shortcomings in recognizing and valuing care work.


  • The Purple Economy advocates for a shift in how we perceive and value care work, emphasizing its indispensable role in societal wellbeing and economic prosperity.
  • Recognizing, valuing, and supporting care workers, both paid and unpaid, is essential for creating a more inclusive and equitable future.

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