The Socialists and Democrats have welcomed the announced European Care Strategy, which has been adopted by the European Commission. With its two recommendations, it is a first step towards strengthening long-term care and early childhood education and care, as envisaged under the European pillar of social rights.
The S&D Group has called for an “ambitious ” European Care Deal, equipped with binding instruments and proper public investment to guarantee universal, equal and effective access to quality care services for all people in need, from early childhood to older-age care and persons with disabilities.
It says this should also promote decent working conditions and adequate wages for all carers, who are still predominantly women, in order to secure quality jobs that increase the attractiveness of working in the care sector.
Heléne Fritzon MEP, the S&D vice-president responsible for gender equality, said: “The Covid pandemic was a sad reminder: women provide the vast majority of caregiving tasks, often as informal workers. At the European Union level, working women spend around 22 hours per week in unpaid work; for men this is only nine hours. Even in my country, Sweden, women do at least 20% more unpaid work than men!”
“If we want to reach a fair and gender-equal society, unpaid and informal care and housework must be better shared between women and men. To succeed, we have to ensure access to affordable, high-quality childcare so that all parents are able to work. We must also start with education, showing our kids that caring for others is not just a woman’s thing. We will continue working with the Commission to ensure a gender-responsive approach to care, to recognise care as a right and value it as the backbone of our society.”
Pedro Marques MEP, S&D vice-president responsible for social Europe, added, “Nurses tending to our sick, parents raising our children, careers taking care of our elderly – their work is too often undervalued, underpaid and unequally distributed. We need to improve the situation of all – paid and unpaid care givers, who are predominantly women, and care recipients.”
“We need to revise the Barcelona targets on childcare, which were set 20 years ago to improve affordable care services for children, especially under three years of age. We also need strong guidance for member states to reform their long-term care with quality services throughout people’s lives. Both recommendations to be presented today should guarantee decent working conditions for all carers, both formal and informal.”
“However, we must do more and faster. For this we need strong public investments in quality public care and binding instruments and laws, not just recommendations. The care sector has a huge potential for employment. With the demographic shift, the need for qualified paid care work will increase. Robots and other technologies will not be able to replace humans. Therefore we need a framework directive on long-term, formal and informal care that would promote accessible and integrated quality care and support services across the EU.”