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Unpaid care work cannot be invisible

Experts from across the European Union concluded in an event co-organized by Portugal within the scope of the United Nations, that the provision of care, occupying millions of women full time, cannot continue to be invisible and unpaid.

This article was originally published in Notícias ao Minuto.

"In order to have a fair economic recovery, we have to make unpaid care work visible. We cannot continue to depend on the free work of women to power this invisible part of the economy", underlined Carlien Scheele, director of the Institute today. European Gender Equality (EIGE).

The vice-president of the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), Ana Sofia Fernandes, defended a European Care Deal and a rethinking of the economic system with a feminist perspective.

At a side event within the scope of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), co-organized by the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), the European Commission and the European Women’s Lobby, Carlien Scheele started by proposing a mental exercise.

The exercise was to imagine that "the entire population of Denmark and Latvia, together, about 7.7 million people, worked full-time to power the national economy, but without being paid and without being included in the budget balances of the government".

"It was the situation in the European Union before the Covid-19 pandemic, with 7.7 million women unable to take paid jobs because they took care of children or the elderly full time," described Carlie Scheele, adding that unpaid care work has been valued at around nine billion euros a year worldwide.

The director of EIGE stated that "the provision of care must cease to be a professional and financial sacrifice for all who are caregivers", including for men, who during the pandemic also had a greater burden of care or domestic responsibilities.

"To ensure that this positive change remains, countries must schedule a healthy amount of paternity leave for all parents," said the expert, promoting accessibility and availability of professional care and making work more secure and eligible for social security, also for temporary and part-time workers.

Ana Sofia Fernandes, representative of the European Women’s Lobby, the largest platform for women’s associations in Europe with more than two thousand organizations, said that the EU needs a Care Deal.

The gender equality expert criticized governments for failing to recognize the centrality and importance of women’s work in caring for children or the elderly in times of crisis, when "it was women’s unpaid and paid work that kept society going and functioning during confinements ".

Also the President of the Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights, Ana Sofia Fernandes said that during the Covid-19 pandemic "civil society organizations continued to fill the gaps in the provision of services and support to women, often without adequate resources. ".

"We have seen the impact of a decade of austerity measures on public services, where the majority of workers are women. We cannot allow this to happen again," said the vice president of EWL.

Ana Sofia Fernandes called for recovery strategies based on gender equality, especially applied to economic governance, politics and public spending and defended "rethinking the economic system from a critical feminist perspective", as the current economic system "is not working" for women.

The expert asked that the measures and new investments ensure the inclusion of undocumented migrant women and girls and women affected by prostitution or sexual exploitation.

Fernandes also revealed that there are many countries where the Gross Domestic Product, a gauge of economic development and wealth, includes areas such as prostitution, or for feminist organizations, "exploitation".

"Why is that [prostitution] considered in national accounts, in an indicator called GDP, when women’s unpaid work is not considered?" questioned the vice president of EWL, before completing "It is very simple: because it is a patriarchal model".

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