Care work is a sub-category of work that includes all tasks that directly involve care processes done in service of others. Often, it is differentiated from other forms of work because it is intrinsically motivated, meaning that people are motivated to pursue care work for internal reasons, not related to money. Another factor that is often used to differentiate caring labor from other types of work is the motivating factor. This perspective defines care labor as labor undertaken out of affection or a sense of responsibility for other people, with no expectation of immediate pecuniary reward. Despite the importance of this intrinsic motivation factor, care work includes care activities done for pay as well as those done without remuneration.
Specifically, care work refers to those occupations that provide services that help people develop their capabilities, or their ability to pursue the aspects of their life that they value. Examples of these occupations include child care, all levels of teaching (from preschool through university professors), and health care of all types (nurses, doctors, physical therapists and psychologists). Care work also includes the array of domestic unpaid work that is often disproportionately done by women.
Often, care work focuses on the responsibilities to provide for dependents- children, the sick, and the elderly. However, care work also refers to any work done in the immediate service others, regardless of the recipient’s dependent or nondependent status.
Care work is becoming a popular topic for academic study and discussion. This study is closely linked with the field of feminist economics and feminist legal theory, and is associated with scholars including Nancy Folbre, Martha Albertson Fineman, Paula England, Maria Floro, Diane Elson, Caren Grown and Virginia Held.
- 1 Importance
- 2 Who does care work?
- 3 Baumol Effect
- 4 Care work and the market
- 5 Care work and public policy
- 6 The Care Penalty
- 7 Explanations for the overspecialization of women in care work
- 8 See also
- 9 References
Care work is essential to human well-being. Without genuine care and nurturing, children cannot develop into high-functioning individuals, and adults have a hard time maintaining or expanding their well-being and productivity. Good childcare, whether provided in the home or in the private sector, contributes to the development of healthy and productive children. Effective care for the sick allows people to remain productive and continue contributing to society. In this sense, care work is directly related to the health of a society as well as to the economic development of that society in that well-cared for people can more effectively contribute to the market.
As stated before, care work is very important in terms of the way that humans interact and live. However, taking care of others seems to be quite costly. This is otherwise known as the care penalty. This penalty is dubbed so because a person’s work in order to take care of others is not compensated by any monetary means. According to Nancy Folbre, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, individuals who don’t take care of others—especially the next generation—will not be capable of reproducing themselves. Many solutions are offered, but one that she has highlighted is to persuade others to take on more responsibilities for care. This will teach people that care is necessary for the development of human life and the world at large. This special target of teaching individuals to care for others may lead to forms of distributional struggle. Folbre says that this struggle may define gender roles. One analogy she has brought to light is what is called the “King Midas Problem.” King Midas was very rich, as everything he touched would turn into gold. However, he touched his daughter once and she even turned into gold. He then realized that his feelings for her meant more than gold. This is a great example showing that feelings are not a substitute for tangible items that people may seem to think are more important.
The popular belief is that the household sector is a wealth spender, and not a wealth creator. According to Diane Elson, however, the household sector plays a very important role in wealth creation. Unlike the business sector, the wealth created by the household sector isn't in monetary form. This is understandable because most of the work done in the household sector is unpaid. The resulting wealth falls into the category of social wealth because the care work that parents perform in raising a child increases that child's ability to perform in society. Thus, care work is extremely important because it nurtures the generation that will eventually run society.
Care work is highly important to our economy in that it is a necessary service that must be provided for the young and elderly. If care work is not provided to the young or old they are much less likely to survive in this world while the young especially will not have the ability to properly mature into fully functional contributors to society and the economy. Care work also encompasses the care of the temporarily to terminally ill which is a necessity in modern society. Society and the economy cannot function without healthcare services or care services for those unable to care for themselves. The societal importance of care work is immeasurable however a majority of people do not understand nor care to learn of its effect on the economy. Many employers, politicians, and average people would not equate the job of a care worker to a business man because they do not see the direct contributions to the economy made by the care workers however this is a very short-sighted way of approaching things.
Care work for the home when raising children provide increased consumption in the economy and other immense benefits however indirect they may be. One of the primary objectives for a parent is to produce well function replacements for themselves as to leave a strong legacy behind bearing their family name. Parents can do so in proficiently providing for their off-spring as to benefit them in maturing into well-adjusted contributors to both society and the economy. Parents provide for children through financial support and primarily care work. Developmental psychologists theorize that we develop our personality through our genetics but how we adjust to society depends on how we are cared for and what we experience during our maturing process; essentially what our parents and family has done for us as we mature. Care work in this instance has to significant benefits to the economy that it is helping generate well-adjust consumers and producers in the future and presently consuming to provide care work. When children need food, books, healthcare, clothing, transportation, and a plethora of items for recreation which all equates to higher consumption in a household due to have one more child. Some economists estimate that raising a child in America with all things being equal costs around 400,000 dollars over the period of 18 years which is being poured into the economy.
When a person gets sick or begins to age they count on society to provide them with care so they can continue to function in society and consume in the economy as adequately as possible. Care work in healthcare is important because people get sick and injured and need care workers to aid in nursing them back to health. When people age they count on their family or private services to care for them when they cannot completely care for themselves so they can continue to consume and participate in society.
"Everything needs care"
Sabine O’Hara offers an expanded concept of the role of care in the economy, arguing that not only people, but "everything needs care." Foregrounding what is often treated as "context" and highlighting the sustaining nature of care services offered outwith the formal economy, she sees care as the basis of market economies.
Who does care work?
Before the Industrial Revolution, care work (such as farming, taking care of the household, and raising children) was done by the entire family, and often involved the help of the entire community. In this sense, the core sphere (or care work) was not seen as separate from daily business interactions, because each sector of the economy depended on one another. However, thanks to the Industrial Revolution, the core sphere became more separate from jobs and business, which were always done outside and away from the home. As a product of a patriarchal society, men were the ones who "went out" to do their work in factories and other non-farming jobs. Thus, women, who were known for their nurturing attitudes, were left at home and expected to provide childcare and do the housework. This set up paved the way for the contemporary American family, with a breadwinner father, a homemaker mother, and their children. The problem with this, however, was that women's jobs in the home were not part of any market, and were therefore believed to be unimportant and were largely ignored.
Part of the problem with today's economy is that we still ignore unpaid care work. As stated by Nancy Folbre in her story about the race designed by goddesses, we forget the real moral of the story. This moral states that when we put others before ourselves, and make sure to take care of all mankind, we end up winning the race even if we are the slowest, because nobody is left behind. Relating this back to modern day economics, we do not include unpaid care work, forgetting that what goes on in the home (paid or not) directly affects the overall society and its function. If we are to act as if unpaid care work does not matter, than we must think about the replacement cost of what might happen if there was no more care work.
Nonetheless, times have changed in the past century. Most women are now in the labor force rather than at home, and many believe that the "cult of domesticity" for women of the 19th and 20th centuries is a thing of the past. However, studies show that working women dominate in caring professions - such as teaching, childcare, nursing, social work, as well as others - and that most of these professions are paid much lower than that of the jobs that more men typically dominate. In addition, women still are expected in most families to do the housework and to raise the children. These things, combined with the idea that care work is unimportant, relates to the reason why care work is ignored from an economic point of view, and why women still have a difficult time escaping the female stereotypes of last century.
Women provide most unpaid childcare. However, men are more likely to help and support the elderly by providing care work for them, as well as supporting a very limited amount for childcare. Women dominate in caring professions: teaching, nursing, childcare, and also for the care of individuals with disabilities and the weak elderly. This domination restricts many other opportunities, which has effectively lowered the cost of care work in the market because women, without other options, provided these services without remuneration.
Women also carry a heavier burden of care work in the home in comparison to men. Why is this? Women tend to specialize in care due to two main reasons: Biological differences, and historical and cultural traditions. The biological differences explain that women show more affection and loving care for their care work as opposed to the male population. On the other hand, historical, and cultural traditions explain the glorification of women’s caring for others. In Nepal women work 21 more hours each week than men, and in India, 12 more hours. In Nepal women work 21 more hours each week than men, and in India, 12 more hours. In Kenya 8- to 14-year-old girls spend 5 hours more on household chores than boys. In all these cases most of these extra work hours for women are spent on care work. This poses a particular problem for women in that these extra hours of domestic care work translate into a difficult balance for women between market work and domestic work. In the world’s history, women have not been given many choices other than care work as the patriarchal systems use their physical force, property rights, and the cultural norms to force women to take over specializations that do not interest the male population.
The historical push of women into care work combined with the contemporary dominance of women in these fields, accounts for the modern conceptions that care work is inherently feminine work. However, care work is not naturally feminized. Instead, care work is only socialized into a feminine sphere, and is also done by males. Despite the social nature of the feminization of care work, it has become so feminized that there is often a stigma against men who engage in care work. This stigma may discourage men from entering care work as well as further propagate the belief that care work is inherently women’s work.
Furthermore, there are many differences in earning between high school graduates and college graduates. This difference is especially pertinent between male and female individuals searching for a job. If unemployed, the differences between the rates of high school graduates and college graduates may even be similar. However, women tend to find more opportunities in unpaid care work if they are unable to get into the paid work force. If individuals are unable to achieve a degree, they will not meet the threshold of what many jobs require. This inevitability is felt by much of the world population who are unable to attend school due to staying in their household to take care of elderly or sick family members.
Recently, individual people are not the only ones who claim to provide care. An increasing number of companies are claiming that they will care for you in order to attract you into purchasing their services. For example, Lufthansa, an airline company, had an advertisement that read, "Service as dependable as a shoulder to lean on." The accompanying picture displayed a woman leaning her head on a man's shoulder, with both sound asleep. In this case, the take-away message seems to be that a high degree of care translates into high quality. Another airline company, British Airways, had an ad that displayed the same message. It read, "New Club World cradle seat. Lullaby not included." The image accompanying the statement showed a woman caring for a baby in her arms. The baby's head, however, was switched with that of a relaxed and content passenger. These are only a few of the companies that are now promoting themselves as care-oriented in order to gain customers.
Caring for others has sparked a lot of controversy as the market prices of items that are required for care increase and just as many care opportunities continue to be non-paid. The costs are increasing and the relative rise of price for the services is not providing any substitutes; this is known as the Baumol Effect. William Baumol and William Bowen describe the Baumol Effect as when there is a relative rise of price of services without substitutes. For example, the costs of childcare and sending children to college have become notably higher than in recent years. To further the pressure on caregivers, elderly lives are increasing and there are fewer siblings to share elder care responsibilities as there were, for example, during the baby boom. However, one issue to note about this effect is people taking advantage of others due to rising costs of items needed for care. The Nice Person’s Dilemma is a risk that opportunists will take when they seize advantage of those who are generous and cooperative. If the Baumol effect occurs, many will take advantage of these “Nice Persons” and act as if they will pay them back, but never do because of the higher prices. This dilemma proves why individuals are unable to make any change in community care. It takes whole communities to commit this change in order for the communities to gain from provided care and make sure that people do not cheat the system through the Nice Person’s Dilemma.
Care work and the market
Today, there are four parts of the economy: Business, Household, Public, and Non-profit. Typically, we only think that the business sector creates any wealth, and that the other three serve the business sector and alongside it. The truth is that all four parts of the economy generate wealth, and that wealth flows over into other sections of the economy as well. Part of the reason that unpaid care work is largely ignored is because of this belief that the household does not form wealth. In reality, the household prepares children for the other parts of the economy, and without that, none of the other sectors would flourish.
Historically care work has largely been associated with domestic unpaid work, yet with the growth and changing nature of the market, care work is occurring more frequently in the paid sphere than it has in the past. This shift has dramatic implications on both care work itself and on society as a whole. As care work is increasingly marketized there is a possibility that those that need care—the sick, the elderly and children—will not be able to afford the care they need. Another concern is that the quality of care may decrease in response to the call for profit-making and efficiency.
As a consequence of these and other concerns, this marketization of care work is under much public and academic scrutiny. These discussions focus on an array of issues including explanations for the endemic low-pay of care work, the effects of the market on the quality of care work, and the implications of the market on care workers themselves. Five particularly prominent theories of care work includingdevaluation theory, public good theory, prisoner of love theory, commoditization of love theory and love and money theory are frameworks by which academics study and explain these phenomena. Each of these theories examines care work in relation to the market.
Devaluation theory seeks to explain the low-wages that are typical of care work by focusing on the fact that many care workers are women and that gender-based biases remain in societies. In short, devaluation theory asserts that decision makers under- estimate the contribution of female dominated jobs to organizational goals, including profits, and therefore underpay these workers.
The devaluation theory is supported by sociological studies. In 2002, sociologist Paula England conducted a studying that revealed, even after controlling for skill demands, educational requirements, industry, and sex composition, a net penalty of 5%–10% for working in an occupation involving care was found (one exception was nursing, which did not seem to experience the pay penalty of other care work). Overall, the evidence suggests that care work pays less than would be expected, given its educational and other requirements. However, it is not necessarily clear that this relation is caused by discriminatory factors, although it is a likely explanatory factor.
Public good theory
Care work has a multitude of indirect social benefits that associate it with a specific type of good known as a public goods; goods that have benefits that are impossible to deny to those who have not paid for them. Education, an example of care work, is a classic example of a public good. Care work is unique in the category of public goods, however, in that receiving care also helps recipients develop skills, values, and habits that benefit themselves and others. In short, care work, by developing peoples internal capacities, imbues them with future abilities to contribute to society in the form of a public good.
This theory may explain the low-wages characteristic of care work. The standard economic argument is that public goods will be underprovided by markets because there is no way to capture and turn into profits benefits that come through social interaction.
Prisoner of love theory
Care work has been defined as work that provides services based on sustained personal interaction, and is motivated (at least in part) by concern about the recipient’s welfare. This understanding of care work has distinct effects both on the nature and wages of care work. If care workers are actually motivated by an intrinsic value for the work which they do, then economic theory asserts that they will tolerate lower wages for their work. In this sense, the low-wages of care work may be explained. Further, the connection that these workers feel to their work puts them in a poor bargaining position. For example, nurses may be reluctant to strike because a strike would negatively affect their patients whom they care about.
Commoditization of emotion theory
Commoditization of emotion theory focuses on the effects of marketized care work on the care workers’ personal experiences and individual well-being. The commoditization of emotion theory asserts that many jobs in the new service economy require workers to act emotions they do not really feel and that this process is harmful to workers. For example, the commoditization of childcare may be overly emotionally exhausting on childcare workers due to the conflict between the natural emotions of this job and these workers’ need for pay. Arlie Russell Hochschild explores this theory in The Managed Hear.
“Love and Money” theory
The “Love and Money” theory attempts to reconcile the perceived divide between work done for intrinsic motivation and work done for pay. Theorists assert that because male and female are seen as opposite, and because gender schema organize so much of our thinking, we develop a dualistic view that “women, love, altruism, and the family are, as a group, radically separate and opposite from men, self-interested rationality, work, and market exchange.” This belief has led to the idea that care work should not be done for pay because pay will undermine the intrinsic motivations for this work. However, studies have shown that these divides may not be so stark. Instead, it has been found that acknowledging rewards send the message that the recipient is trusted, respected, and appreciated These results suggest that the more that pay is combined with trust and appreciation, the less it drives out genuine intrinsic motivation—especially important in care work. As a result, theorists argue that the central problem with care work is under-demand and that care work should be better compensated by the market.
Care work and public policy
The debate surrounding care work has specific policy implications ranging from issues of market structure, work environments, incentive schemes, regulatory requirements, adequate financial support for care. A second major policy area relating to care work involves the question of gender analysis in economic policy.
Accounting for unremunerated care
For example, The Unremunerated Work Act of 1993 would require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to conduct surveys that would measure unpaid labor and include these measures in the GDP. This bill was supported by many but not all feminist economists. Critics argue that this bill would romanticize care work and propagate gender biases in the field. Other critics argue that care work can be performed more efficiently outside the home. Finally, some critics believe that this would create a move for care givers to value efficiency over affection, quantity and quality.
Accounting for time spent in unpaid care is extremely difficult because it is often an emotionally involved activity that isn't always reported as singular activities. This becomes even more difficult because there is a "social desirability" bias. For example, husbands will often report more time spent devoted to care work than their wives would report for them, and vice versa. People do this because providing care is considered praiseworthy. Thus, it is hard to make a survey that can get accurate results. However, most of the problems can be minimized through the use of a time diary. This method involves respondents describing the activities that they performed during the previous day. The responses are then standardized for analysis purposes. For example, "eating sandwich" and "drinking juice" would both be considered as "eating."
Care work wage parity
A second policy relating to care work is the push for higher wages in the sphere of paid care work. Advocates of this policy believe that individuals who respect and fulfill norms of care will be seen as losers in the competitive economic game, if wages are not increased. Due to this stigma, some economists argue that there may be a gradual erosion of the supply of unpaid care services in the system. Therefore, in order to encourage care work, these proponents advocate for higher wages for care work. However, not all feminist economists believe that higher wages would be appropriate for care work. For example, those who ascribe to the commoditization of emotion framework argue that higher wages may push out true caring emotions in care workers.
Care work and gender
A third policy debate surrounding care work involves the feminization of care work and focuses on an attempt to make care work more gender neutral, or at least, less disproportionately burdensome to women. One model set forth to address these disparities is the ‘‘universal-breadwinner model’’ which aims at achieving equity through women’s employment and parity with men. The ‘‘caregiver- parity model’’ promotes increased support for informal care work and on forms of employment for women, such as part-time employment, that would increase their time available to provide domestic care work. The first model shifts care and reproductive work to the market and the state, whereas the second keeps care work within the household with support from public funds. Yet both models, to an extent, lift the burden of care work off of women and transfer it either toward the state or toward men.
Another model is Shared Earning/Shared Parenting Marriage, which involves not transfer payments from taxpayers to women for women to do the care work, but men actually taking responsibility for half the care work themselves, and women taking half the financial responsibility of basic needs of the family. The fact that paternity is now inexpensively provable is used to support recognition of this model. This model is also focused on improving the experience of children and removing developmental distortions from the feminization of care, such as those that arise from symbiotic mothering or paternal neglect trauma.
Care work and gender analysis in economic policy
Care work, in that it is disproportionally done by women and is also often unpaid, highlights the importance of the larger issue of considering gender in economic policy. As a result, many economists argue that gender analysis should be an essential part in the consideration of any economic policy.
Care work and economic policy across the world
Care work is a universal force, but it is manifested differently across the world due to differences in a number of factors including the availability of domestic service, the extent of the informal economy, and international migration. For this reason, economists argue that there are differences between Northern and Southern countries that would influence the effectiveness of certain policies in the South. Public policies suggested for these regions include increased availability of day care centers, greater access to schools, greater access to health care, improved public transportation, increased access to telephones and more.
The Care Penalty
The Care Penalty is the term for the sacrifices one makes when performing care work. Nancy Folbre describes the term care penalty in depth in her book The Invisible Heart. Care penalties can refer to an array of sacrifices, whether it’s a loss of personal time, money, or experiences missed out on while providing care. The care work in question can be provided to children, animals, the elderly, the sick, the mentally challenged, the learning incapable, and other’s of like disability. Providing care work limits a person’s ability to compete with those who don’t have to provide such care. For example, say a single woman with the responsibility of a child is in the cards for a job promotion, but so is a single, childless woman. There is a high chance the company will take this into account and give the job to the woman who isn’t tied down to a child, because she likely has far more time to devote to the position.
Folbre points out that the concept of the care penalty leads to distributional struggles extremely relevant to gender roles (see 5.3). In situations like the Good Parent’s Dilemma, this is made known. When two people choose to have a child, in most cases, one parent is forced to sacrifice far more than the other, so that the other can work and provide for the family. A vast majority of the time, the parent that ends up staying home and caring for the children is the mother. According to the U.S. Census Bureau report of 2012, there were only 189,000 homes run by stay-at-home dads, compared to 5,091,000 homes run by stay-at-home moms, meaning that roughly 4,902,000 more women are paying care penalties than men. When women make this sacrifice, it not only affects them in the moment, but it affects them even after the child is capable of being independent. By taking time off from their careers, these women are at a disadvantage in the work force for years to come.
Parenthood is seemingly the type of care work that evokes the most significant, and most common, care penalty. Since the mere cost in dollars of raising a child increases constantly, the sacrifices one has to make to raise children are increasing at the same rate. The amount of money parents give up to their children is only money they are taking away from themselves; this is an extreme care penalty. Separate from the issue of money, children tend to cause parents to make many other sacrifices. Being responsible for a child can dictate a person’s decisions on where to live, what to do in their free time, and what jobs to take. There are opportunities that are necessary to turn down when one is held accountable for another person’s well being, which is the perfect definition of the care penalty.
The care penalty is commonly a necessary evil. If someone is in need of supervision, there are not many options to give him or her the care they require. If a person didn’t want to or for some reason could not care for this person on their own, the only other course of action would be to pay someone else to provide them with the care they need. This is sometimes impossible, since professional care can be extremely costly and can seem inefficient. With professional care there also comes moral issues; it’s likely that a person wouldn’t trust a stranger to care for someone they love, and would find more peace of mind in taking on the responsibility themselves. For this reason, some victims of the care penalty have actually chosen the position, though they are aware of the sacrifices that come with it.
Many benefits arise when parents raise successful children. Not only do the children themselves benefit, but employers benefit from new, productive employees. Also, the elderly benefit from the Social Security taxes paid by the younger generations. Parents benefit because of reciprocity, with the child in the care-giving role and the parents in the care-receiving role. These positive externalities make it hard for those who provide the care services to charge a price that would reflect the true value of their services. Thus, the care penalty exists to this day.
Explanations for the overspecialization of women in care work
Theories of evolutionary biology explain females’ investment in care as rational response to ensure the benefits of their investment (i.e. the maturity of their pregnancy and child). On the other hand, men simply need to diversify their opportunities, by distributing their seed widely enough, to ensure their genes are cared for and carried forth by invested females. Institutional economics responds to this framework by emphasizing how these analyses ignore the power of social institutions that exaggerate biologically explained male power, including brute strength and freedom from childbearing and child rearing activities. The social arrangements perpetuated by these institutions are deemed to be internalized as individual preferences. Women’s “overspecialization” in child rearing is understood has an outgrowth of the institution of patriarchy, rather than an absolutely biologically determined phenomenon.
Gerda Learner’s research on the history of women has identified patriarchy, men’s control over women, as a human-devised social institution dating back to the Bronze Age. Learner argues that the “production of the idea system” itself, including our recorded history, was constructed within and therefore imbued with the patriarchical system that underemphasizes women’s contributions to public society. Learner asserts that this misrepresentation of women in history not only underemphasizes women’s role outside of domestic work, but also works to dampen future women’s ambitions outside of the home, thereby reinforcing this misrepresentation.
Institutionalized male dominance (patriarchy) has not only excluded women from written history, but also worked to limit their political representation, education and property rights. There are distinct examples of United States law and public policies that have reinforced the patriarchical structure. Until the 19th constitutional amendment provided women the right to vote, women’s interests were deemed to be represented through men’s political participation. Further, women only began to secure property rights on a state by state basis after the civil war and still women continued to lack any legal claim to their husband’s income at this time.
Institutionalized patriarchy has worked to limit women’s agency in the public sector by concentrating political and economic power in men. cite Gary Becker’s Rotten Kid Theorem as a disruption to the idea that a woman’s interests can be adequately represented by their husband. If individual family members consistently acted in the collective interest of the entire unit, it would be in the interest of individual family members to act in coordination with the family, which is not always the case as demonstrated by children’s rebellion. This recognition of what Braunstein & Folbre (2001) term the “non-benevolent patriarch” debunks the idea that women can be adequately represented by a single head of household and contend that families represent a myriad of interests that are not always manifested in one member’s actions.
Braunstein & Folbre assert that the hierarchical relationship produced from the patriachical system over allocates care work to women. Understanding that economic resources translate to increased bargaining power, Braunstein & Folbre contend that men (who historically control the resources) encourage women’s specialization in care work in order to limit their economic activity, thereby limiting women’s bargaining power, in an effort to preserve their own authority. Therefore, the individual controlling the influx of financial resources is seen as more profoundly interested in preserving their control and power, than in preserving the well being of the entire family. In fact, Braunstein & Folbre demonstrate that more egalitarian families, where men and women are holding comparable economic resources, distribute care work more efficiently that patriarchy structures that have asymmetrical concentrations of power.
Modern public policy can be interpreted as covertly enforcing patriarchy by discriminating against single parent households and encouraging the patriarchical family structure that relies on a primary income earner and an unpaid care laborer. For example, the welfare law Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 cites among its goals to end pregnancy out of marriage and to promote two parent households. In addition, United States tax law imposes a lower tax rate on families that have earners with a wide income disparity than the rate applied to families with adults earning a similar income.
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