UN New York – The topic of Care took centre stage at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We at MMM argue that despite its lack of market value in economic systems, the future of society through its children, the wellbeing of its members via the extended family, and even economic growth thanks to workers’ availability and pay depends on it.
The priority theme at this year’s 63rd CSW session is “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”.
Ines Rosell, MMM representative at the UN in New York emphasises that women are Right Holders, Carers, Workers and Mothers. The following is her report.
Finland’s Health Minister represents one of the countries with the best maternity and child policies in the world, including the famous baby boxes. She explained how far back these policies go, to 1930 to be precise. A supportive maternal system cannot be built overnight she stressed. It‘s a long-term commitment that eventually pays off because of its benefits for families, and more generally to society.
A Woman’s reproductive role has an impact on her life and welfare. By being mostly in charge of raising children and taking care of the family, both of which are unpaid work, women are losing out on personal income, career prospects and ultimately, pensions.
We need a premium for unpaid family care work to balance the injustice this responsibility places on women. Some countries such as France, that has a one-year bonus per child on retirement, are advancing policies in this direction. But more needs to be done.
The Ministers of Social Affairs for Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, unified to highlight the importance of a father’s role in childcare.
These Nordic countries are the pioneers of paternity leave. They agree that a better share of childcare and family chores within a household is crucial for enhancing a woman’s participation in the economic sphere. This induces an increase in income for the woman, and as a result, an increase in economic growth for countries. At the end of the day, it is crucial for achieving gender equality.
The implementation of paid paternity leave, added to paid maternity leave, goes some way towards achieving greater involvement of fathers with a positive triple impact on the mother, the child and the father himself. But it is not enough. Japan and Korea offer the longest paternity leave – the problem they face is that fathers don’t take this leave, as compared with Norway, where 80% do.
Countless countries also struggle with economic issues. Unfortunately, austerity policies are taking away social protection programs, in particular those that benefit women and mothers.
Childcare, Elder care… women are the ones who are taking the brunt of the lack of public services.
The cost of care, which is time-consuming work, explains why the responsibility lies on the shoulders of women from within the family, or women migrant workers. It takes 17 to 18 hours a day to take care of a newborn. Imagine the cost if mothers were paid at minimum wage plus charges!
“Care is not a market good”, says sociologist Maria-Angeles Duran. “For our economic systems, it has no value”. Nevertheless, the future of society (children), the wellbeing of its members (extended family) and even the economic growth (workers availability and pay) depends on it.
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