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Equality is not a matter of time. Ester Oliveras

Equality is not a matter of time. Ester Oliveras

Ester Oliveras, professor at the UPF Department of Economics and Business.

20.11.2020

 

Ten days ago I started working for free. Compared to men, women work 51 days unpaid. In 2006 it was from 8 November on, in 2020 it’s as of 11 November. For those who argue that equality is a matter of time, let’s do the maths: three days in 15 years, equality for the year 2275.

The statistics also show that the lower the level of education, the bigger the wage gap, which closes, but does not disappear, with higher levels of education, so it could be construed that the solution is more education for women. Well, education is welcome, but men and women have the right to earn the same when doing the same jobs, regardless of their level of education. I should think so too! At higher levels, there is a smaller wage gap, but more subtle, underground discrimination still exists. Women tend to take on more low-visibility or “thankless” tasks with little support, from which it is impossible to escape successfully. And that affects their career progress and their access to higher positions.

In 2006 it was from 8 November on, in 2020 it’s as of 11 November. For those who argue that equality is a matter of time, let's do the maths: three days in 15 years, equality for the year 2275.

The education that is truly needed is across-the-board gender education. Training responsible people that can recognize the cognitive bias to which many of us, men and women, lean unconsciously, whereby what a woman “says or produces” tends to be worth less. Many generations of men have had a head start and, from a position of superiority, earned with small and large privileges based solely on their gender and not on extraordinary intelligence or talent, allow themselves to say that positive actions are a waste of time. That if she’s worthy then great and if not, she must improve. How cynical!

But these statistics are just one side of the coin. The public sphere. There’s no heads without tails. Public sphere and private sphere. Look at how household tasks are shared out! Who undertakes more chores? Who undertakes the greatest load during maternity and parenting? Who takes more care of the elderly? What we could call “non-work”. Time use statistics indicate that the greatest load falls with women. The International Labour Organization estimates that women in the world work 4 hours and 25 minutes a day on tasks that are not recognized as work, while men do so for one hour and 23 minutes. The survey on time use during lockdown by the Centre d'Estudis d'Opinió -public opinion study centre- also highlighted the unequal distribution of care work. In another article, Kyle Myers et al. show how women scientists with children in care have been able to spend far less time working in research compared with their male colleagues. This has medium- and long-term effects on promotion and access to funding.

The International Labour Organization estimates that women in the world work 4 hours and 25 minutes a day on tasks that are not recognized as work, while men do so for one hour and 23 minutes.

In view of this situation, there are two solutions: either the “non-work” load should be shared equally, or “work” and “non-work” must start to be equated. Sharing “non-work” is based on enhancing the joint responsibility of men and women regarding care. The difficulty of this solution is that it is a virtue, and as such it is difficult to impose. It requires a great deal of education and awareness-raising. For sure, reconciliation policies can help, but if it’s only the women that resort to them, the pattern is perpetuated. The other option, valuing “non-work” or activities in the private sphere, is one of the tenets of feminist economics and implies overturning the current economic framework that is based on what adds economic value is only what involves the exchange of money. Can we imagine a society in which caring for people had value and work was just the means to achieve it? I can’t. That’s what being brought up in an economy based on androcentric values leads to.

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