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The Role of the State is Key for Guaranteeing Women’s Economic Autonomy and Moving Towards a Care Society

13 July 2021|News

Representatives of government and international organizations participated in an event organized in the framework of the month of activities dedicated to development in transition.

The role of the State is key for guaranteeing women’s economic autonomy and moving towards a care society, with a view to a transformative recovery with sustainability and equality, government representatives and specialists from Latin America and Europe agreed during an event organized by ECLAC in the framework of the month-long series entitled “Development in Transition: Dialogues to chart new paths for Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Participating in the event on Women's autonomy and the care economy in the framework of a transformative and sustainable recovery with equality were Mario Cimoli, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Nadine Gasman, President of the National Women’s Institute of Mexico, and also in her capacity as Co-Chair of the Generation Equality Forum; María José Abud, Undersecretary of Women's Affairs and Gender Equity of Chile, the country chairing the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean; Juan Daniel Oviedo, Director of the National Administrative Department of Statistics of Colombia, the country currently chairing the Statistical Conference of the Americas (SCA); and Marisol Touraine, Expert from the Gender Equality Policies Area of EUROsociAL+ and President of UNITAID. Ana Güezmes, Chief of ECLAC’s Division for Gender Affairs, acted as moderator.

In his opening remarks, Mario Cimoli, ECLAC’s Deputy Executive Secretary, posed the urgency of incorporating a gender perspective into all the plans and programs for the post-pandemic recovery, as well as into all short- and long-term fiscal, industrial, technological and job-creation policies, to guarantee women’s economic autonomy with our sights set on equality and sustainability. The care economy is a driving sector, a motor of the recovery and an accelerator of equality, he said.

It is time to move from words to actions, the senior official stressed. “Let’s make a qualitative leap forward, let’s ask for an accounting of gender equality announcements. We need to put in the political, analytical and methodological forefront those policies geared towards economic autonomy and the care society,” he stated.

Nadine Gasman recognized that there is demand for governments to develop national care systems and emphasized, in this regard, ECLAC’s call for forging new social, political and fiscal compacts that would center policies on the well-being of people and the autonomy of women in all their diversity, including indigenous, rural and Afro-descendent women.

The President of the National Women’s Institute of Mexico indicated that her country is in the process of approving a constitutional reform so that care would be considered a right, and she affirmed that they are working on a law for a national care system. She also called on countries to join the Global Alliance for Care Work, an initiative led by Mexico and UN Women in the framework of the Generation Equality Forum and in which ECLAC is participating.

María José Abud, from the government of Chile, shared some of the measures implemented by her country to address the pandemic, including an employment subsidy with a gender approach, the extension of post-natal leave during the emergency, and the strengthening of various care programs. She also called on the region’s countries to be part of the Regional Alliance for the Digitalization of Women, launched in February by Chile in the framework of the 60th meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean. “This alliance has already drawn the participation of countries like Uruguay, Costa Rica and Panama, and of intergovernmental organizations like ECLAC and UN Women, and of private-sector leaders like Microsoft,” she noted.

The Undersecretary of Women's Affairs and Gender Equity of Chile also highlighted the visionary perspective of the Santiago Commitment – approved during the XIV Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean (held in January 2020 in Chile, before the pandemic emerged) – which calls for implementing countercyclical policies that are sensitive to gender inequalities in order to mitigate the effects of economic crises on women’s lives, and to promote the care economy while also designing comprehensive care systems from a perspective of gender, intersectionality and interculturality and human rights that would foster co-responsibility among women and men, the State, the market, families and the community.

Meanwhile, Marisol Touraine spoke about Europe’s experience with care policies, which both enabled women’s time to be freed up, improving their labor insertion in general, and forged a driving economic sector that produces quality employment for many of them.

The expert from EUROsociAL+ and President of UNITAID explained that Europe is moving towards a new phase in care policies, as part of its NextGenerationEU plan, which includes strengthening State-certified training for engaging in care work, bolstering social protection, recognizing a degree within the sector, and massively incorporating technology into these activities. “There is no care policy without state regulation of caregivers’ training and social protection,” she said, calling for “politicizing care” in the sense of achieving greater presence of governments and public policies.

In his remarks, Juan Daniel Oviedo, of the National Administrative Department of Statistics of Colombia, stressed the importance of having updated and disaggregated statistical information “to effectively recognize in which dimensions lie the main barriers to women’s autonomy in the region.” He further emphasized the sharp drop in employment and high unemployment figures that women face more than a year into the pandemic, along with the excessive time and unpaid work burden on women, which has accentuated over this period. The National Survey on Time Use (ENUT) carried out by Colombia shows that “while women spent 8 hours a day on average on unpaid work activities between September and December 2020, men spent 3 hours on these same activities.”

“Latin America and the Caribbean, with the leadership of the Division for Gender Affairs and ECLAC, has achieved significant progress, in conjunction with the efforts of other organizations such as UN Women. They have ensured that all our statistics offices are aware that we must produce gender-sensitive statistical information,” to promote public policies that would contribute, in the current scenario, to a transformative and sustainable recovery with equality, Oviedo stated.

Finally, Ana Güezmes invited the ministers and authorities for women’s advancement to participate in the next meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean scheduled for September, which will feature a panel on the topic of the care society. ECLAC has called for moving towards a care society that would prioritize the sustainability of life and caring for the planet and would guarantee the rights of people who need care along with the rights of people who provide such care; that would counteract the precariousness of jobs related to the care sector and improve labor conditions and formalization; and that would give visibility to the care economy’s multiplier effects in terms of well-being, the redistribution of income and time, employment and economic growth, she said.

“We cannot move towards a new development model without a State-led approach, regional integration and multilateral partnerships, with the participation of feminist organizations. That is why we are very interested in the conversation between Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe and in articulating short-term proposals for mitigating the pandemic’s effects with medium- and long-term policies that would be clearly transformative and structural to achieve substantive equality, in real deeds,” she concluded.

The panel on women’s autonomy was one of the four events ECLAC is organizing in the framework of the dialogues on development in transition, which have been convened by ECLAC, the European Commission and the OECD Development Centre.