The Dutch government has launched a campaign to encourage women between the ages of 30 and 60 to work more hours per week, since Netherlands has the highest number of part-time workers in European average of 26 hours per week, and many female-dominated sectors are understaffed.
It is a peculiar campaign in a world where the data precisely indicates the large number of unpaid hours that women work, in their profession or in care, but, in the Netherlands, the fifth largest economy in the European Union (EU), a third of adult women are not financially self-sufficient and earn an average of 36% less than men.
On the other hand, sectors such as health and education face a great shortage of personnel, in a market where the number of unfilled jobs is greater than that of the unemployed population looking for work. At the same time, day care places are scarce and child care continues to fall largely on women, who choose to leave their career or work part-time, earning and contributing less than men.
In this context, Liberal MP Judith Tielen called on the government for this campaign to urge women to think about their career and financial independence, with videos that include advice on how to approach the issue with the company, and testimonials about women happily giving themselves to their career.
“The most important thing is that women become aware of their difference in income with men, in their professional career and the accumulation of pensions. I wouldn’t limit myself to those 30 to 60 years old either, because for many this starts right after graduation.”Tielen said in statements to the press.
Retired men in the Netherlands receive an average pension of 34,000 euros a year, and women almost 20,000 euros, more than 40% fewer, making this gender gap the worst in the EU, behind only Cyprus, according to pension expert group Netspar.
In addition, the financial independence of women depends on whether they have children, according to the Dutch statistics agency (CBS). Before becoming mothers, there is little difference between men and women under the age of 45, but “45% of women work less or stop working if they have a child, compared to less than 7% of men”.
Of the more than 1.6 million economically dependent women in 2021, the 32% had a paid job, that is, they earned below the social minimum because they worked fewer hours or had a low salary. Of the 912,000 dependent men, the 27% I had paid work, but I didn’t earn enough. A 64% received social assistance, compared to 47% of women who applied for social assistance.
Two in three part-time working mothers want to work more hours, but the reality is that not even one in 10 couples divide work and care equally, and in the vast majority women work less, the campaign says.
The most critical consider that this campaign puts the weight back on women. “Little attention is paid to things like childcare, paternity leave, the role of employers and the culture surrounding work and care”said Mara Yerkes, professor of social policy at the University of Utrecht, on public television NOS.
Social norms continue to be imposed: four out of five Dutch people believe that mothers with children up to 4 years old should not work more than 28 hours a week because they “they can take better care” than them, according to CBS. Paternity leave in the Netherlands is one week paid at full salary and another five at 70%.
Employment Minister Karien van Gennip believes the aim of this campaign is to start a debate with employers and at home. “How can we better divide those tasks between private and working to ensure that those who want to work more hours can do so? In the end it’s about organizing all that informal care and childcare”he explained.
The minister urges women to think about their financial position and stresses that “working part-time is fine, if it’s your choice”but he asked them “Take into account how that affects your pension, or your financial independence in the event of divorce, death, you don’t know what will happen in the future”he warns.
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