Politics has been haggling about it for years. How to make sure women can become more financially independent? Annette Mosman and journalist Lynn Berger only needed about one hour to come up with the first steps towards a solution. Friction is the bottleneck, flexibility is the keyword: that’s how they concisely summarize their problem analysis and solution. Annette Mosman: “Employers can take many initiatives in this respect.”
The problem seems to be rather cluttered to the government. The Netherlands is ageing, the labor market is confronted with major shortages. But hey, doesn’t 70 percent of the women hold a part-time job? That often makes them financially less independent than men. Not just today, but also in the future: the pension income of men and women shows a gap of 40 percent. So, if women just start working more, two problems can be solved at once.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, says Lynn Berger, author and journalist at De Correspondent. In her most recent book, Ik werk al (ik krijg er alleen niet voor betaald), (I already work, I just don’t get paid for it, ed.) she clearly explains it. Besides their paid jobs, women spend 26 hours per week on average taking care of the children, the household and/or informal care. So, what do you mean ‘work’ more? Moreover, without all that unpaid labor, the economy would collapse. Upon Berger’s request, the Institute for Public Economics calculated the value of this free care. If we were to be paid the minimum wage for household duties, the amount that host parents receive for taking care of the children and a compensation from the Law on Long-Term Care for informal care, all of that already comes down to EUR 215 billion annually. That relates to a quarter of the GDP (gross domestic product). And in the meantime, the call for informal care is noticeably increasing because of the ageing population.
In short: society has to start looking at care duties with a different, more appreciative, view. As Topvrouw van het Jaar 2022 (Top Woman of the Year 2022, ed.), Annette Mosman envisages a leading role for herself. “Employers can offer more flexibility by implementing creative solutions.”
What does it take to not only appreciate care duties more, but to also realize these tasks more easily?
Lynn: “First of all, filial leave has to be expanded for both men and women. And the pension accrual has to continue during that leave. That is partly a matter of legislation, but employers and social partners can obviously also take many initiatives in that respect. Childcare furthermore has to become a basic provision.”
Annette: “Something needs to happen on several fronts. Plenty of policies are implemented by the government, but let’s not wait for all of that to be finalized. Because in reality, it’s all about friction. Combining work and care doesn’t mean you just have to work a day less: flexibility and solidarity are required to also be able to fulfil care duties when holding a full-time contract.”
Lynn: “That requires employers to be aware of the fact that employees are people with care duties, and that they need the time and the energy to fulfil these tasks. And the trust that employees really want to perform their work in the best way possible. You can just agree: This is the work we want you to finish. Give people the opportunity to wrap their paid job around their unpaid work, not the other way around.”