The lady who wrote “Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?” has returned to the pages of The Guardian to tell us more about economics:
Economists sometimes joke that if a man marries his housekeeper, the GDP of the country declines. If, on the other hand, he sends his mother to a care home, it increases again. The joke says a lot about the perception of gender roles among economists, but also shows how work done within the home is not counted as part of GDP, but the same work done outside of it is. This economic assumption may seem harmless, but actually has severe consequences for women and girls.
It’s not in fact a joke, it’s a criticism. It is what Keynes said about Simon Kuznet’s work on trying to define how we do measure GDP. This is not some evidence of the patriarchy controlling economics, it’s evidence that the problem has been known about and considered since the very start of the whole idea of trying to measure that economy.
As, amusingly enough, one of us explained in an article published on the same day in a different place.
And we all also know what is the answer to that little conundrum. If GDP is value added at market prices, and there’s labour adding value but not at market prices, then how do we value the added value of that labour? The Sarkozy Commission considered this and such as Joe Stiglitz and Amartya Sen told us the answer. At the “undifferentiated labour rate” or, as we might more commonly call it, minimium wage.
It’s not just that the original set up of the problem is incorrect it’s that she doesn’t know it’s already been solved…..