Marking the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the European Parliament Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality has been holding its first European Gender Equality Week. On 28 October 2020, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs took the opportunity to deal with the latest findings of the European Institute for Gender Equality on paid and unpaid care work.
Lack of support concerning childcare
During the Committee meeting, Blandine Mollard, Research Officer at the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), presented the status quo in the care work sector and introduced recommendations based on this. The current crisis has made investments in affordable and qualitative care services for families even more urgent. As early as 2002, the Barcelona objectives were agreed, which provide for high quality and affordable childcare facilities for pre-school children. For example, facilities should be available for 90 % of children between 3 years old and mandatory school age, which many EU States have not yet accomplished. According to Blandine Mollard, this has also been demonstrated by the fact that 14 % of households are unable to get the required childcare. This had again been exacerbated by the loss of support programmes due to the pandemic. Hence, there must also be efficient regulations regarding special Coronavirus leave for parents. Some Member States have already been leading by example.
Long-term care – between precarious employment and unpaid care work
According to Blandine Mollard, currently 6.3 million people Europe-wide are working in long-term care. However, informally most of this work is carried out by 41 million people; the women’s share is 62 %. Women between 40 and 60 are frequently caring for their elderly relatives, which means they are often confronted with obstacles to get back into the labour market afterwards. Apart from dismantling such obstacles, the care profession is in urgent need of higher wages and improved working conditions. This would eventually also increase the share of men working in this profession, part from having a positive effect on the pay gap between women and men. Apart from that, healthcare and care systems are underfunded and marked by the austerity policy of the last crisis. Hence, within the scope of the Global Day of Action: Invest in Care, Now! on 29 October 2020, trade unions and civil society called on governments to make urgently needed investments.
AK sees need for Directive
Apart from that, the Chamber of Labour supports the implementation of a Directive on Europe-wide minimum standards in respect of healthcare jobs. This could improve working conditions on the one hand and tackle existing staff shortages on the other. Live-in care workers are in particular characterized by precarity, pseudo self-employment and regulatory requirements. In the AK’s opinion here too, a framework directive is required to effectively safeguard the rights of live-in care workers.
Unequal Care duties, unequal pay
Blandine Mollard also emphasised the close link regarding the unequal distribution of unpaid care work between genders and their unequal pay on the formal labour market. Furthermore, according to Blandine Mollard, the implementation of the EU Work-life Balance Directive should be prioritised. The examined household confirmed that equal gender pay could be easier achieved if sufficient childcare facilities were available and used. This is, in view of the European Gender Equal Pay Day, taking place on 4 November 2020, yet again reason to press ahead with increasing affordable care facilities, to promote gender equal distribution of unpaid care work as well as to drastically improve working conditions in care professions and in live-in care. EU-wide, the gender pay gap is still 16 %. The European Trade Union Confederation points out: Without additional measures, equal gender pay will only be achieved by 2104. In view of the urgency to take action, the European Trade Union Confederation is also very critical of the planned delay of the Commission proposal on pay transparency from 4 November 2020 to 15 December 2020.