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Developing the care economy can boost employment, equality for Arab women

Mar 07,2018 - Last updated at Mar 07,2018

Around the world this morning, millions of women are on their way to work. Globally, we know that most women prefer to be in paid employment, and that most men agree. The empowerment of women in the workplace is to be celebrated, but it is not without its challenges. Both women and men acknowledge that a lack of work-family balance and access to care, including childcare, care of the disabled and the elderly and housekeeping are major obstacles facing women at work.

National development plans in our region have generally overlooked the care economy as a productive economic sector. However, shifting dynamics in the Arab states demand change. Governments in our region need to focus more on care work, both as an area of employment growth as well as a means of supporting women’s equal opportunities in the world of work. Here is why, throughout the course of our lives, each and every one of us will rely on the care of others. Care workers support the care of children and youth during critical stages of development and help the elderly and persons with disabilities to live with dignity.

Changing demographics within the Arab society, which are manifested in lower birth rates and longer life expectancy, point to increasing care needs. Furthermore, family living arrangements are evolving, with an increase in nuclear family structures.

A lack of affordable institutionalised state care has meant that responsibility for care predominately falls on individual households. As more Arab women move into the workforce, they continue their responsibility for caring for their families at home, undertaking what is known as “the second shift”.

Those who can afford it employ care workers, who relieve women in the household from undertaking this “second shift”. In our region, there is a preference for home-based care, predominately delivered by migrant workers.

The growing demand for care work will continue to create a large number of jobs in the coming years. The sector comprises a variety of skilled professions in childcare, early childhood education, disability, long-term care, elder care as well as domestic work, hence opening up many opportunities for Arab women to fill these positions. This would fall in line with targets for increasing female labour force participation rates, which currently stand at global low of 21.2 per cent.

Evidence from other regions demonstrates that a strong care economy boosts women’s participation in the labour force. Member states of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), for example, have set access to affordable and quality childcare, support for elder care, paid parental leave and family-friendly work opportunities and conditions as policy priorities in order to increase women’s labour force participation rates. Since 2012, female employment rates have increased by almost two percentage points on average across OECD countries.

This approach has also been championed by Japan’s “womenomics” initiative, which has seen the country’s female labour participation rates rise to 70.1 per cent from 62.7 per cent in 1997.

Delivering quality care goes hand in hand with ensuring decent working conditions. However, domestic workers who provide care services to households in this region experience exclusion from the labour law and vulnerability to abuse and exploitation. This is due to undervaluing care work as a contributor to economic development, and to the lack of recognition of the various skills involved, as well as care work’s typical association of the work of women and its delivery by migrant workers.

To build a care sector that benefits care workers, care recipients and society overall, Arab governments should take crucial steps regarding the nature and provision of care policies and services, and the terms and conditions of care work.

This must begin with bringing care work under the full protection of the labour law, in line with international labour standards, including the principles of the  International Labour Organisation (ILO) Domestic Workers Convention, 2011(No. 189). Governments should also create a comprehensive system for training, skills development and skills recognition, ensuring that workers are able to meet emerging care needs. 

Governments also need to explore flexible work arrangements to ensure that care work delivery is in line with employer demands, including the option for part-time and live-out worker models, and allowing workers mobility to shift between employers. 

Facilitating social dialogue by supporting the establishment of organisations that represent the interests of both workers and employers will ensure that policies and programmes reflect evolving needs and contexts.

These and other recommendations are elaborated in a new ILO report on achieving a mutually beneficial situation for households and domestic workers through improved regulation and its effective enforcement.

Taking proactive action on these steps will ensure the establishment of a dynamic and resilient care economy, which creates jobs for national workers in the public and private spheres, helps to promote the work-life balance that all working families strive for, provides high quality care and safeguards decent working conditions for all.

Today, on International Women’s Day, we thank all the women care workers who uphold our economies, communities and societies, and call on our governments to formally recognise the value of their contributions. 

 

The writer is International Labour Organisation’s regional director for Arab states. She contributed this article to The Jordan Times

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Comments

FIRST, I MUST EXTEND MY GOOD WISHES AND CONGRATULATIONS TO RUBA JARADAT ON THIS DAY OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF
WOMEN. WHAT MORE, I DO ADMIT THAT HER ARTICLE IS WELL WRITTEN BUT ONLY FACTUALLY CORRECT AND APPLICABLE TO CERTAIN STRATA OF WOMEN POPULATION. THIS ARTICLE THEREFORE SHOULD BE TARGETED TO THE WOMEN IN THE WESTERN WORLD RATHER THAN IN THE MIDDLE EASTERN REGION AND OTHER REGIONS WHERE WOMEN HAS NO SAY ON HOW THEY LIVE THEIR LIFE, SUPPORT THEIR FAMILY, EXCLUDED FROM PUBLIC POLICIES, SUBJECTED TO DRESS CODES, DEPRIVED OF THE BASIC CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS THAT ARE VERY MUCH NEEDED BEFORE THE THESIS OF HER ARTICLE CAN BE APPLIED. I AM THEREFORE GRADING THE QUALITY OF THIS ARTICLE WITH AN " A " BUT THE INTENT AS AN " F- " AS IT IS TARGETED TO THE WRONG SAMPLE. HOW CAN RUBA BE SPENDING SUCH A GOOD QUALITY TIME PRODUCING SUCH AN EXCELLENT ARTICLE THAT IS NEEDED IN THE WEST ON THIS DAY OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF WOMEN BUT SELLING IT TO THOSE WHO DOES NOT NEED IT BECAUSE THEY CANNOT USE IT ANYWAY AND HERE ARE THE REASON(S).
1) IN THE REGION THAT SHE IS REFERING TO, WOMEN HAS NO SAY IN DECIDING THE MEDICAL CARE OF THEIR CHILDRE OR ITS
PROXIES FOR THAT MATTER SO THE MOST IMPORTANT CARDINAL RULES OF THE FAMILY DYNAMICS ARE NULL AND VOID
2) WOMEN HAVE NO RIGHTS WHAT SO EVER BE IT CIVIL OR HUMAN RIGHTS SO CAN ONLY WORK WITH THE PERMISSION FROM THEIR MASTERS AND DECIDERS.
3) WHAT HAPPENS TO THOSE JORDANIAN WOMEN MARRIED TO NON JORDANIAN MEN THAT NEITHER THEIR HUSBANDS OR CHILDREN
ARE ALLOWED TO WORK IN JORDAN THEREBY CREATING THE "SECOND SHIFT" SYNDROME THAT RUBA POINTED OUT. MOST WOMEN CUT IN THIS TRAP AND CYCLE OF SEXISM, TORTURE AND ARPATHIED POLICY BY ONLY ALLOWING THE CHILDREN AND FAMILIES OF JORDANIAN WOMEN MARRIED TO NON JORDANIAN MEN TO STAY BUT NOT LIVE IN JORDAN ONLY ON VISAS WITHOUT ANY HUMAN OR CIVIL RIGHTS? OFTEN, THESE WOMEN MUST HOLD MULTIPLE JOBS CREATING THE SECOND IF NOT THE THIRD AND FORTH SHIFTS TO MAKE UP FOR LOST INCOMES FROM THEIR HUSBANDS AND / OR CHILDREN WHO HAVE NO CIVIL STATUS IN JORDAN?. ARE THE PROBLEMS OF THESE WOMEN THE FUNCTIONS OF LACK OF THE SO-CALLED PAID CHILD CARE JOB CLASSIFICATIONS OR JUST SIMPLE SEXISM? IN SUMMARY, NO GOVERNMENT CAN CREATE THE TYPE OF ECONOMIC MODEL THAT RUBA IS SUGGESTING WITHOUT FIRST CORRECTING THE BASIC COMMON DENOMINATOR THAT HAS HELD MOST IF NOT ALL THE WOMEN IN THAT REGION HOSTAGE FOR THE PURPOSE OF SUBMISSION, FEAR AND MENTAL CRAZINESS. ASK YOUR GOVERNMENTS TO TEAR DOWN THESE BARRIES OF BONDAGES, HOSTAGES AND SEX SLAVERY BEFORE COMPARING THE WOMEN IN YOUR REGION WITH THE SAME UNIVERSA SET OF TESTING AND MEASUREMENTS. IN MEDICAL STATISTICS, WE CALL YOUR ARTICLE ONLY GOOD IF AND WHEN BLOCKING EFFECT OR SELECTIVE AMNITIA ARE USED TO CONTROL FOR ASSUMPTIONS.

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