Social Platform : Invest in services to improve work-life balance and gender equality

Social Platform, the European platform of civil society organisations, among which AGE, has published a position paper highlighting the impact of cuts in public services on women. Many challenges of older women are highlighted in the paper, ranging from low employment rates to lack of affordable and accessible long-term care services.

The paper sets out highlighting the link between gender equality and cuts in public services: women are affected in their role of employees, as many social services employ predominantly women, as well as in the role of service users: if public services are not available, it is mostly women who step out of the labour market to provide them in an unpaid manner.

Investment in high-quality essential services and social infrastructures

The paper argues that a lack of investment in quality care services such as long-term care affects women more than men, as they often have to interrupt their careers to provide these services. Public employment agencies are often not equipped to advise and train older women, while only one in five women between 55 and 65 work in the EU. The paper asks to encourage investments in high-quality social infrastructure, including by the European Structural and Investment Funds.

Legislative and non-legislative measures to improve women’s and men’s work-life balance

The paper highlights the high inequalities in the share of household work, especially in the field of care. To encourage a more equal burden-sharing between men and women, the paper calls for a coherent framework for all types of family leaves that should be attractive also to men –meaning essentially to maintaining incomes, provide care services and ensure quality in these care services.

Integration of gender in all aspects of health policies

The paper notes the regression in healthy life years in the recent years, impacting more women than men. Therefore, health services addressed to women should be covered under public health services and be accessible through public health insurances. In the process of reviewing occupational health and safety laws and regulations, a special emphasis should be put on professions where most employees are women and on the specific challenges to health and safety of female workers.

Services as part of other social inclusion measures

The paper highlights the importance of social services to be fully part of active inclusion strategies. For example, urgency shelters for women that face domestic violence have been reduced during the crisis, further augmenting the risk of homelessness of women, a largely underestimated risk as homeless women are often invisible. For older women, the cuts in public pensions have higher impact on women, who have less capacity to compensate cuts in pensions with private savings during their lifetime. These examples show that the gender dimension in the cuts in services and benefits is not sufficiently integrated in social inclusion policies.

Ensuring the rights of legal migrant carers

The paper makes reference to the increased reliance on migrant women to provide care services where public services have been cut back. Female migrants are particularly at risk to be treated inequal in terms of pay, health and safety at work etc. Much of the care work is also provided through undeclared, undocumented or low-paid labour, which also has an impact on the quality of service and quality of life of the cared-for persons. This situation should be addressed by stronger protection for migrant workers in domestic work and equal access to rights such as healthcare.

AGE Platform, as a member of Social Platform, has contributed to the policy paper and fully endorses it. For further information, please contact Philippe Seidel at AGE Platform Europe:

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