Women and work: mission (not always) impossible
The dilemma of working women when faced with the work / family binomial is always the same: resist or leave. There are shifts to work, while nursery care is inexistent or costs too much. Then there are the grandparents to keep any eye on and to top it all, the shirts and laundry at the end of the evening. One thing is certain: this is not a country for working mothers, that’s for sure. In fact, one in four of them leaves their job when their first child is born and it is estimated that in a decade ten million women (41%) have given up their salaries and careers.
These days, whoever resists and does not give up their job has to face the challenge of the pandemic and the crisis triggered by the spread of the virus: it is here that women and young people are paying a higher price. The female employment rate, already among the lowest in Europe, is bound to drop further, given the lack of adequate measures. Today, barely one in two female workers is working and over 32% have part-time contracts.
It is reckoned that this damages both the growth and the finances of an already failing public welfare system enormously, in a country with more and more grandparents and fewer and fewer babies (only 1.29 children per woman, a negative record in Europe). The Italian family – as emerges from a recent analysis – is unbalanced with the woman of the household doing almost everything: 73% of housework and duties of care for the young and old.
How to help women workers reconcile jobs and children, business and school is the first fundamental step. The European Parliament already approved the directive on the work-life balance on April 4, 2019, which requires member states to introduce interventions on the leave front by 2022. In recent years, according to experts, collective bargaining (especially at the second level) has moved forward in terms of work-life balance.
Too often though, women find themselves at a crossroads and have to choose: work or family. Many other times they go out of their way to juggle everything, but then they are the first to give way in case of difficulty. It is useless to talk about conciliation, says Susanna Camusso, former general secretary of the CGIL, “if the problems of social infrastructure are not addressed first”. The number one problem is services, which are almost non-existent. “The availability of kindergartens is ridiculous, while the education system has to start from birth, not from age six. Social structures are the keystone without which there can be no conciliation. Resources must be spent to provide long term solutions, in services and in countering job insecurity: women and young people are the first to be squeezed out of the labour market».
But upstream there is training: the future is STEM. The more girls who study science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the more female employees there will be. “Scientific and technological training – explains Confindustria – represents an opportunity for the inclusion of young women in more highly qualified jobs”.
Girls should already be being brought closer to these disciplines in the final years of their schooling. The most recent Istat data on research and development shows that “the increase in the female component among research and development employees is particularly high in companies (+ 19%), even if the presence of women in R&D remains lower than that of men». Scientific studies and promotion of female entrepreneurship, suggests Confindustria. And in terms of reconciling the work-life balance of timings, the availability of nursery schools and facilities for the elderly must be
Finally, is Smart working a valuable tool for female employees, given the situation caused by the COVID-19 emergency? Experts agree that it must be regulated. Given that, an axiom is certain: with the contribution of female workers, GDP also increases: an increase in female employment will contribute to an increase of more than half a point a year in GDP.