Persistent and significant gaps in care services and policies have left hundreds of millions of workers with family responsibilities without adequate protection and support, yet meeting these needs could create almost 300 million jobs, and create a continuum of care that would help to alleviate poverty, encourage gender equality, and support care for children and the elderly, says a new International Labour Organization (ILO) report released during the International Women’s Day.
The report, Care at Work: Investing in care leave and services for a more gender equal world of work, “finds that three in ten women of reproductive age, or 649 million women, have inadequate maternity protection that does not 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. Eighty-two of the 185 countries surveyed for the report did not meet these standards, although “paid maternity leave or maternity protection is a universal human and labour right”, the study says.
“At the current pace of reform it will take at least 46 years to achieve minimum maternity leave rights in the countries analysed, which means the relevant target of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals will not be met.
“More than 1.2 billion men of prime reproductive age live in countries with no entitlement to paternity leave, although it would help to balance the work and family responsibilities of both mothers and fathers, the report says. Where there is paternity leave it remains short – a global average of nine days – creating a large “gender leave gap,” the report further added.
“ The take-up of paternity leave entitlements is also low; a consequence, the report suggests, of low paternity pay, gender norms and policy design.
“The Care at work report offers a global overview of national laws, policies and practices on care, including maternity, paternity, parental, child and long-term care. It highlights how some workers fall outside the scope of these legal protections. These include the self-employed, workers in the informal economy, migrants, and adoptive and LGBTQI+ parents. It also looks at the case for – and potential impact of – greater investment in care.
“In only 40 of the countries surveyed did pregnant or nursing women have a right to be protected against dangerous or unhealthy work, in line with ILO standards. Only 53 countries offered a right to paid time off for prenatal medical examinations. Time off, income security and appropriate facilities for breastfeeding were also lacking in many countries “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.” Manuela Tomei, Director, ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department, said.