13th Apr 2024


Who cares? Precarious situation facing 21st century heroines

  • In the European Parliament, we will keep pushing so that both the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the EU's budget mainstream the gender dimension in all policies (Photo: S&D group)

Each year, the 8 March reminds us that there is still a long way to go until we achieve gender equality.

Even today, in the 21st century, it is a reminder that women must continue fighting for real equality, not just on paper.

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Yet, this time Women's Day is different. The pandemic has exposed something we knew, but ignored.

Without the precarious work of so many women, society simply stops: nurses, cleaners, supermarket cashiers and carers for children, the disabled and the elderly all face the harshest circumstances, without job security, fair payment or social recognition.

Public institutions have the duty to fight on two fronts: against social stereotypes and at the political level with specific legislative proposals to correct this injustice.

Traditionally, carers are women.

International Women's Day

The mental burden inherited from grandmothers, mothers and daughters is part of why so many women devout a huge amount of time and effort to taking care of the family and the home, completely disproportionate compared to men.

Often care is given without any compensation, and when carers are professional, it is under very poor conditions. Just because we are women.

Real change will only take place when care work is part of everyday life in every home, for every family and every couple.

To do that, we need to break the taboo around care. Care must become a shared responsibility.

That is why it is crucial to incorporate children into the caregiver culture from a very early age. No one is born a sexist, but it is about how we are raised and educated. Therefore, it is also time to invest in education on justice and equality.

In a hallmark declaration back in autumn 2017 in Gothenburg, the European Union adopted the European Pillar of Social Rights.

The second principle of this pillar states that: "Equality of treatment and opportunities between women and men must be ensured and fostered in all areas, including regarding participation in the labour market, terms and conditions of employment and career progression. Women and men have the right to equal pay for work of equal value."

However, we are far from having achieved this goal, which has yet to translate into concrete action.

A recent study gives the figures on the unpaid work of so many women, who often face these tasks after a long working day.

In 2019, of all part-time jobs in the EU, 73.8 percent were held by women. Without a clear policy on flexible career development, women always end up sacrificing their career with knock on effects for the quality of female employment.

At the demand of the Socialists & Democrats, the European Commission last week finally presented a proposal for a directive on pay transparency.

But this is just the beginning.

With the social summit in Porto in May 2021, we now have the opportunity to move beyond the Gothenburg goals.

The Portuguese presidency of the EU wants to give a feminist impulse to the European Pillar of Social Rights and they will have all Socialists & Democrats behind them.

As long as gender inequality corrodes the structures of our labour and social systems, there will be no justice.

The pandemic has shown how essential the jobs of all these women are to our society. Now it is time to give them what they deserve: a fair wage and fair working conditions.

In the European Parliament, we will keep pushing so that both the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the EU's budget mainstream the gender dimension in all policies.

This is the only way to make sure that, one day, women take to the streets on the 8 March not to claim their rights, but to remember the long struggle of younger generations to achieve them, and to remember how important it is to defend rights when we have them and so never again take a step back.

Author bio

Iratxe García Pérez is the chair of the Socialists & Democrats group in the European Parliament, and leads the Group's 145 MEPs. She is an MEP from Spain and the second woman to chair the S&D Group. She has been working for a more social, united, feminist and environmentalist Europe, with more solidarity. She believes that Europe must regain its social soul and put people and the fight against inequalities at the heart of its political action.


This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver.


Women fighting Covid-19 in focus This WEEK

To help bridge the stubborn gender pay gap, the EU Commission will present pay transparency measures so that differences in wages and salaries do not remain hidden from employees.

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