Can persistent and significant gaps in care services and policies lead to creation of more jobs? Yes, greater investment in care services could create nearly 300 million jobs by 2035 as per the International Labour Organisation.
In a report published ahead of International Women’s Day, the ILO said that the move would benefit hundreds of millions of workers with family responsibilities who lack adequate protection, such as maternity leave or paid time off to attend prenatal exams.
ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department Director Manuela Tomei, opined: “We need to re-think the way we provide care policies and services so that they form a continuum of care that provides children with a good start, supports women to stay in employment and prevents families or individuals falling into poverty.”
“Plugging these care gaps should be seen as an investment that not only supports health and livelihoods but fundamental rights, gender equity and greater representation too,” the Director said.
The report, Care at work: Investing in care leave and services for a more gender equal world of work is in response to legal survey of 185 countries. The report pays attention to the most frequently excluded workers, such as the self-employed, workers in the informal economy, migrants, and adoptive and LGBTQI+ parents.
IS MATERNITY PROTECTION LACKING AROUND THE WORLD?
The report points out that three in ten women of reproductive age, or 649 million women, have no adequate maternity protection that meet the key requirements of the ILO’s Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183) The Convention mandates 14 weeks minimum maternity leave on at least two-thirds of previous earnings, funded by social insurance or public funds. The report says that 82 of the 185 countries did not meet these standards, although “paid maternity leave or maternity protection is a universal human and labour right”. The ILO states that it will take at least 46 years to achieve minimum maternity leave rights in the countries analysed at the current pace of reform. This means the world will not meet the target of 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The Report states that that employers should not be individually liable for the direct cost of maternity leave and these benefits shall be provided through compulsory social insurance or public funds or non-contributory social assistance to women who do not qualify for benefits out of social insurance. This is especially the case for workers in the informal economy or self-employed women.
WHAT ABOUT PATERNITY LEAVE?
The ILO in the report points that more than 1.2 billion men of prime reproductive age live in countries with no entitlement to paternity leave. It further says, “Where there is paternity leave it remains short – a global average of nine days – creating a large gender leave gap. The take-up of paternity leave entitlements is also low; a consequence, the report suggests, of low paternity pay, gender norms and policy design.”
As with maternity leave, some categories of workers are still largely excluded from paternity leave provisions. Only 30 countries offer an equal right to paternity leave cash benefits to self-employed men, many of whom are in the informal economy, the report said. Only 20 countries provide equal paternity leave rights to same-sex parents.
In 2021, 68 out of 185 countries surveyed by the ILO offer a right to parental leave, but only 3 new countries have done so since 2011. The average duration of parental leave is 22.1 weeks (5.2 months) in all countries and 103.5 weeks (almost 2 years) in the 68 countries with parental leave. Over the last 10 years, 22 countries have increased the duration of parental leave. However, only 47 countries offer parental leave cash benefits, while parental leave is still unpaid in 21 countries.
WORK PLACE ATMOSPHERE
The Care at work report says that only 40 countries where employers are obliged to protect pregnant or nursing women against dangerous or unhealthy work, as per by ILO standards on maternity protection. It said that 66 countries do not provide for legal protection against the health risks of night work, leaving 4 in 10 potential mothers globally without adequate legal protection. All women should have the right to paid working time for breastfeeding as called for by ILO Convention No. 183. In 2021, 138 countries provide a right to time and income security for breastfeeding.
The report found that there is a statutory provision of early childhood educational development (ECED) programmes for children aged 0 to 2 years was only seen in 57 out of 178 countries surveyed.
The report finds a strong investment case for creating a transformative package of care policies. This has to be based on universal access that would create a breakthrough pathway for building a better and more gender equal world of work. Investment in gender equal leave, universal childcare and long-term care services could generate up to 299 million jobs by 2035. Closing these policy gaps would require an annual investment of US$5.4 trillion (equivalent to 4.2 per cent of total annual GDP) by 2035.