Work in the shadows

Work in the shadows

Desperate mother © Stephan Kern (DR)

Working mothers in particular have a lot to do in the Corona crisis. Time for our economic system to change, finds one initiative. Unpaid housework is what makes paid gainful employment possible in the first place.

They cook, clean, wash, help with homework and care for elderly relatives. At the same time, they work in supermarkets, nursing homes or home offices wherever possible.

Many mothers in Germany have to cope with a double or even triple burden – this was already the case before the Corona crisis.

But since schools and daycare centers have closed, the challenges for families have increased yet again – often at the expense of women. As an online survey of 7 by the Hans Bockler Foundation shows.677 working people in Germany, that 27 percent of mothers, but only 16 percent of fathers, have reduced their working hours in order to care for children up to the age of 14 at home.

Researchers warn that the unequal division of labor between the sexes could be perpetuated even after the crisis. The dangers are financial dependence and poverty in old age.

Presentation of the "Equal Care" manifesto

So far so familiar. But what to do? The organizers of the so-called "Equal Care" conference have now presented measures that mean a complete rethink in politics, business and society. "We have to rethink this economy and turn it upside down," explains budget economist Uta Meier-Grawe at the presentation of the "Equal Care" manifesto in Bonn on Tuesday.

The former economics professor at the University of Giessen, who worked on the German government's second report on equality, is one of the faces of the Equal Care Conference. At the end of February, experts and those affected had exchanged views in Bonn on the topic of equal care work. The authors of the "Equal Care" manifesto are now calling for the inclusion of unpaid care services in the gross domestic product (GDP). In other words, work that is done more often by women than by men.

The authors of the "Equal Care" manifesto are now calling for unpaid care benefits to be included in the gross domestic product (GDP). This indicator of prosperity would grow by about a third if cooking, cleaning and childcare were paid at the minimum wage in Germany, calculations have shown.

The initiative is about making the work of countless women visible at all. Because without unpaid care work, the economy would not be possible at all, emphasizes conference initiator Almut Schnerring. "It takes someone who has cooked, cleaned, ironed and provided before someone else steps up to a workbench or desk."

Indispensable care work

She says the Corona crisis made clear how indispensable care work is. "You can shut everything down," says Meier-Grawe. "But not this daily caring."At the moment, the priority is to stimulate the economy," she said. Only then could a society afford care and other social services. "This is exactly the wrong approach."

In their 18-point manifesto, the authors therefore call for a care allowance. Previously unpaid care and housework should be remunerated, for example through a company levy. Mothers and fathers should be able to take parental leave at the same time and receive parental benefits for it. The executive director of "UN Women" in Germany, Bettina Metz, even proposes to link parts of the parental allowance to the condition that both parents take equal care time.

So it's not a matter of women working more and more and having less time for their children, Meier-Grawe said. Instead, both parents should work less and be able to afford it.

According to the United Nations International Labor Organization, women worldwide perform more than twelve billion hours of unpaid care work every day. "We can only achieve equality if we involve the men," Metz stressed.

The manifesto makers now want to present their demands to politicians and decision-makers. For the time being, however, the ie seems to interest women in particular – as evidenced by the gender-sensitive initiative. The manifesto was presented by seven women and two men on Tuesday.

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