Gender Equality achievable if Care Gap and Care as valuable ‘work’ are recognized

02.03.20

In February, Make Mothers Matter responded to the Roadmap of the European Commission strategy on Gender Equality (2020-2024) which was published on 5th March 2020. In our response we advocated that gender equality is achievable if unpaid care work, greatly responsible for the pay and pension gaps, is recognised as a category of work.

In its response, MMM highlighted that EU legislation and policies have only had a limited impact on the gender pay gap and the pension gap persisting. Moreover, since 2005, the EU Gender Equality score has increased by only 5.4 points (+ 1.2 points since 2015). (EIGE, Gender Equality Index 2019).

The main issue is a lack of understanding of what the root causes of gender inequality are.  Among those:

  • Unequal share of unpaid care work (‘care gap’)
  • Gender stereotypes and discrimination
  • Inadequate EU and national legislation that encompasses the realities of the XXI century, an economy where women also perform paid work. Employment legislation is rigid and dates back to the industrial era when women performed the care work and career breaks were not needed.

Make Mothers Matter strongly believes that gender equality will never be achieved until the “care gap” is recognized, and that the care is redistributed and recognized as valuable work. The amount of time dedicated by women to care activities is much higher than men.

In the European Union, the lack of recognition of the value of such activities and the absence of measures to adjust the sharing of them is a major obstacle to gender equality. Women still perform the majority of unpaid care work, such as household work and caring for children, the disabled, the elderly or the frail. This inequality is difficult to prove because recent and reliable data of the share of unpaid care work in European households is not available. Only some estimates exist and what is not counted ‘does not count’.

This impacts women’s availability on the labour market, forcing women to reduce their paid working hours. As a consequence, this not only reduces their overall income, but also their career progression, time for training or retraining, and also affects their hourly-wage and pension income. In addition, there is the perception that women with children are less available, competent and are therefore discriminated in terms of promotions, access to training, more senior positions, etc.

The result is a ‘motherhood penalty’ that raises concerns not only about the gender pay gap, but also for the capacity of societies to manage a sustainable balance between economic and social aspects.

There is an urgent need for the European Commission to set clear targets and indicators including impact assessments, instead of the actual strategic engagement specifically addressing the domain of time. It would also be important to include a subdomain that compares women without children and mothers, in pay gap calculations. Comparing families with children and families without children hides the fact that in many cases, men compensate for the loss of income (extra hours, etc.) and the real gender gap is not shown. According to the ILO report (The motherhood pay gap: A review of the issues, theory and international evidence, Geneva, 2015), the motherhood gap increases with the number of children the mother has. In many countries in Europe, the gap is lower with one child but increases significantly with three.

Women need support when returning to the labour market after a career break due to caring responsibilities, by validating their informal skills acquired working at home and giving them access to training in order to maintain their pay level and seniority.

If policies and societies tackle only the gender pay gap and there are no figures that show that mothers are penalized, society will not attain the capacity of supporting the costs of rearing children and a better distribution of child rearing. Knowing that the economy in general will also profit from such redistribution.

Make Mothers Matter calls upon the EU and the Member States to:

  • Acknowledge (and regularly measure) the care gap
  • Recognize and address this care gap as a main barrier to gender equality/ women economic empowerment and root cause of inequality and discrimination
  • Recognize care as essential work that needs to be better supported and valued

We urge the authorities to take the necessary measures to meet the essential needs of European mothers to eliminate the discriminatory consequences of childbirth. These needs are drawn from the results of the survey we conducted with 12,000 mothers in Europe on their priorities (What Matters to Mothers in Europe, Survey of Mothers in Europe, 2011 results), observed best practices and other research results and can be reduced to five principles: time, choice, services, resources and recognition.

For more information

 

 

Most read articles

MMM welcomes first ever Human Rights Council resolution on Care

11.10.23

UN Geneva, Human Rights Council - Entitled ‘Centrality of care and support from a human rights perspective’, this landmark resolution was presented by the governments of Argentina, Iceland, Mexico

Lire plus

Call to action: make 2024 the EU year for Women’s Mental Health

09.10.23

In June this year, the European Union (EU) Commission announced a new high-priority initiative to address the mental health of all Europeans.

Lire plus

Investing in mothers key for inter-generational change

13.02.24

UN New York, CSocD62 - MMM's intervention to the Commission on Social Development reiterates that investing in mothers through recognition, education, protection and adequate support is a smart invest

Lire plus
See all the articlesof the category

News from the MMM European Delegation

MMM teams push for strengthening the right to education

19.06.24

UN Geneva – A resolution aimed at strengthening the right to education in international legal instruments will be negotiated during the 56th session of the Human Rights Council, which began on 18 June. This r

Read more

Mothers Can-Bringing mothers back to work

13.05.24

MMM is working on the project “Mothers Can-Bringing mothers back to work”, a European partnership between six countries (Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Romania, Spain and Greece). The project aims to support mot

Read more

Breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty by investing in children and their families

07.05.24

Make Mothers Matter participated in the conference “Investing in an inclusive and fair future for Europe. European Child Guarantee: from engagement to reality", organised within the framework of the Belgian p

Read more

La Hulpe Declaration: positive step for social justice in the EU

07.05.24

MMM welcomes the recent adoption of La Hulpe Declaration, under the Belgian presidency. This inter-institutional document aims at shaping the future social agenda of the European Union for the period 2024-2029.

Read more

Every mother should have access to the long-term care she needs and deserves

20.04.24

In a timely joint statement, we at Make mothers Matter, along with 16 European NGOs, have urged EU policymakers to prioritise long-term care in the upcoming 2024-2029 legislature. This call comes as the Belgian

Read more

Empowering Families for a Better Tomorrow Insights from We Learn Everywhere Conference

13.02.24

This event, marked by insightful presentations and discussions, addressed the challenges and opportunities that exist in parenting within our complex society and highlighted the tools created to provide parents

Read more