[Brussels, 15 September 2022] The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) warmly welcomes the recent proposal from the European Commission for a European Care Strategy, which is a stepping-stone towards a Care Deal for Europe.
“At long last, care is on the European political agenda, embedded in a gender equality framework, as it acknowledges the overwhelming role of women in providing both paid and unpaid care, which impacts their own economic independence and participation in all aspects of life", stated Réka Sáfrány, EWL President.
For the EWL, care is the backbone of society as testified during the COVID-19 pandemic. The European Care Strategy addresses many of the issues that the EWL has outlined in its Purple Pact – a feminist approach to the economy, published just as the pandemic broke out. The Care Strategy addresses universal provision of services for early child education and care, expanding beyond childcare per se, and for long-term care. The emphasis on quality, affordability, accessibility and inclusiveness as the core elements driving these services is very welcome. The Strategy also addresses the issue of the workforce, primarily women including migrant women, and calls for valuing the sector and improving pay and working conditions. This in turn will have an impact on closing the gender pay, pension and, subsequently, poverty gaps as well as tackling gender stereotypes. The Strategy recognises that care is crucial to achieving gender equality.
The Communication and proposal for Council Recommendations cover Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) and Long-Term Care. The former proposes a revision of the 2002 Barcelona Childcare targets, raising them from 33 to 50% for the under 3-year-olds and from 90 to 96% from the age of 3 to compulsory school age. However, while the legal right for all children to ECEC is mentioned, without more robust measures, it will be difficult to see how these targets will be met by 2030, particularly as the less ambitious Barcelona target has not been met in many countries. On the other hand, no targets are proposed for long-term care, despite the fact that they are considered as services of ‘general interest’. Instead, Member States are invited to nominate national long-term care coordinators and to establish action plans.
While the European Care Strategy addresses many of the issues the EWL has been identifying for decades, it does fall short of a robust framework, which would anchor care as part of a European economic, social and environmental model. Caring for each other and for the planet; caring for children, parents and persons with specific needs, must be at the core. The EWL calls for a Care Deal for Europe, a holistic life-cycle approach that acknowledges that care needs and the provision of care services are essential at every stage of the life-cycle, an essential part of our collective mechanisms of solidarity, and a safety net that meets our collective care needs and responsibilities towards each other. Women are penalised throughout their lives for the things they do to keep society functioning, and a structural reform of the current economic model would play a central role in creating a more just and equal society.
Care is part of the transition to a green economy: caring for the planet and caring for each other go hand in hand. We need a Care Deal to put this continuum on a level playing field with the Green Deal, which equally requires robust measures including earmarking EU funds to invest in this sector.
The European Care Strategy is a necessary step in this direction. The EWL calls on Member States and the Czech Presidency to swiftly adopt the proposed Recommendations and stands ready to support the process.
This article is also available in French.
Laura Kaun, EWL Policy and Campaigns Director
Mirta Baselovic, EWL Communications and Media Coordinator