Blog on a lack of Croatian government’s response to ‘care crisis’ caused by the COVID-19 pandemic related childcare and school closure can be found here (in Croatian). The blog was also translated to German and published at FES blog “Corona & Care” and Blickpunkt Kroatien br. 3/2020.
The blog addresses the first two COVID-19 recovery plans in Croatia and points out that they were focused only on economic aspects of the pandemic, ignoring a social dimension of the crisis. Namely, although the unequal gender and social effects of the childcare and school closure were easily predictable, the Croatian government’s response failed to acknowledge the specific challenges parents were faced with (especially families and children at risk of poverty). The only concrete proposals aimed at parents came from opposition parties. However, the proposal of a group of representatives of the left and right political spectrum demanded the extension of maternity leave and the abolition of father’s quotas. Such a proposal runs against the EU work-life balance directive and would have a negative effect on the position of women in the long run. Although on a better track, the social-democrats’ proposal to introduce a temporary wage compensation for a parent with a child under twelve years of age not able to work targeted only parents in stable employment. These proposals were not voted for, while there is also no response to the challenges faced by parents in precarious and non-standard forms of employment and parents (and children) at risk of poverty.
The blog concludes that in order to prevent a ‘social crisis’ with longer-term consequences, it is more than necessary to introduce measures aimed to address the social implications of the pandemic. Measures aimed at specific needs of parents and families are needed, such as additional financial assistance to families with children and a degendered ‘crisis leave’ that will also cover parents in precarious and non-standard forms of employment. The opening of schools and kindergartens should be accompanied by a more elaborated model than currently offered, while employers themselves should also provide a number of measures that will make the new situation easier for parents.
On March 6th 2020, I took part in the event ‘Strong Women – Strong European Union‘ organised by the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU to mark the International Women’s Day 2020. The EU Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli presented the key priorities of the ‘Gender Equality Strategy: Striving for a Union of equality’, released just a day before this event that are briefly presented here.
The main part of the event was the panel I had a pleasure to facilitate, discussing both the EU achievements and future challenges in the field of gender equality together with Paul Reiderman, Director for Employment, Social Policy and Health, General Secretariat of the Council of the EU; Carlien Scheele, Director, European Institute for Gender Equality; Dubravka Šimonović, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Markus Warasin, Head of Unit of the parliamentary Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, European Parliament. Throughout the panel, the need for the EU to strengthen its action in the field of gender equality and other intersecting inequalities was emphasised, particularly a need to work more on the implementation of its priorities. Overall, special attention was given to work-family policies and a need to accommodate social security systems in Europe to better respond to changing labour market conditions and employment types, lifestyles and family types, as well as to the topic of violence against women and women’s under-representation in political and public decision making.
On 21st November 2019, the InCARE project results were presented in Belgrade at the 5th Conference of the London School of Economics and Political Science Research Network on Social Cohesion in South-East Europe (LSEE) “Economic and social inclusion in an age of political uncertainty in South-East Europe”.
Keynote “Childcare-related policies developments in the former Yugoslav countries and their implications for gender and social (in)equalities in care and employment” addressed similarities and differences in childcare policies development in the former Yugoslav countries since the 1950s. It highlighted growing gender and social (in)equalities in care and employment in South-East Europe, which are a result of both childcare policy design and growth in precarious, underinsured and nonstandard employment.
On November 8th, 2019, I took part in the celebration of 100 years of maternity protection in Geneva organised by International Labour Organisation (ILO), European Commission and International Network on Leave Policies & Research. The conference “A Century of maternity protection: Transforming leave and care policies for a better future of work for all” provided a unique opportunity for policymakers and experts to discuss both achievements and (future) challenges in the area of maternity protection around the world.
It was 1919 when ILO adopted the first international standard on maternity protection, the Maternity Protection Convention 1919/No.3, which recognised the right to paid maternity leave with employment protection. Although maternity protection has expanded since then, many (future) mothers are still left without adequate access to maternity leave or other forms of maternity protection. Maternity Protection Convention has been ratified in 55 countries (see Figure). ILO invited all states to recognise the importance of maternity protection and ratify the Maternity Protection Convention 2000/No.183, which is seen as an essential element in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of good health, gender equality, decent work and economic growth. See: https://youtu.be/fdxJTbteWqg
On 23rd October 2019, the InCARE project results were presented at Family Research Group at the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford. Presented paper ‘Gender aspect of childcare-related leaves in 21 former socialist countries‘ (co-authored with Nada Stropnik) systematically explores continuity and changes in leave policy design in 21 European former socialist countries in the 1970-2018 period. It sheds light on the development pattern of leave policies and their potential to reproduce, impede or transform traditional gender norms in employment and care. Following the state-socialist commitment to gender equality, European former socialist countries early introduced childcare/parental leaves. Still, they developed mother-centred leaves of equality-impeding character and detrimental for gender equality. Leave policies of European former socialist countries that joined the EU have been gradually transformed towards more gender-equal ones.
The policy report “Changing faces of social and gender inequalities in childcare-related policies design in the post-Yugoslav countries”, which aimed to disseminate the first InCARE project’s results, was well received in Croatian media.
On July 19th 2019, portal Libela published the blog based on the InCARE policy report. The blog addressed the issue of growing inequalities in access to childcare-related rights in the post-Yugoslav countries. Namely, the InCARE project results show that childcare policies in most of the post-Yugoslav countries (continue to) reproduce or even strengthen social and gender inequalities in parenting practices related to care and employment, with pronounced regional differences. While some of the reforms over the last three decades have improved the parents’ rights, it is difficult to deny that there has been little progress towards ensuring equal opportunities for all parents, regardless of their gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, residency region, family status, etc. Reforms have not been considerate enough to the multiple causes of inequalities and had a weak potential to prevent and overcome gender and social inequalities in parenting practices, as well as to promote the well-being of all children.
On July 28th 2019, I gave an interview for Jutarnji list, daily newspaper, addressing the risks related to underdeveloped early childhood education and care system in Croatia.
On June 25th 2019 the InCARE project results were presented at 4th Transforming Care Conference “Changing priorities: The making of care policy and practices“ in Copenhagen. Paper “Inequality Dynamic of Childcare–related Policies Development in the Post-Yugoslav Countries” explored the (in)equality dynamic of childcare-related policies reforms in the post-Yugoslav countries and their implications. It shows that although the childcare-related policies (i.e. parental leaves and early childhood education and care services) in the post-Yugoslav countries are becoming more inclusive, allowing wider groups of parents to access the childcare-related rights (e.g. self-employed, parents with short-term contracts, farmers, inactive parents), the stratified effect of childcare-related policies strengthened, i.e. policy reforms intensified gender and social inequalities in work-care relations.
Report on social and gender inequalities in childcare-related policies design in the post-Yugoslav countries is now available and can be read here.
On April 12th 2019 the first InCARE project results on childcare-related policies development in the post-Yugoslav countries were presented at the Croatian Sociological Association conference “Socijalna kohezija u društvu polarizacije, konflikata i nejednakosti” in Zagreb.