The Time for Gender Equality is Now!

United States of America

All parents wish for their children healthy, happy and fulfilling lives. When I became a mother, maternity protection, childcare and emergency leave, breastfeeding breaks and a nursing room, all made an extraordinary difference to my professional and personal life and that of my family. I was lucky enough to enjoy what the large majority of parents around the world is still missing in 2020: a right to work-family balance, as called for by the ILO Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention, 1981 (No.156).

Globally, only 41 per cent of women with newborns receive maternity benefits. This means that more than 800 million women workers around the world are not adequately protected. Even in Europe, around 10 per cent of women and men are ineligible to parental leave, because they do not qualify or are freelancers. Without these entitlements, they are less likely to maintain labour market engagement and a sustainable living. Young women, women with disabilities, migrants, women of colour or from ethnic minorities are the most disadvantaged.

Last November, the European Union, the ILO, UN Women, UNICEF, the WHO and over 200 participants came together to celebrate the centenary of the adoption of the first ILO international labour standards on maternity protection. They called for urgent action to transform leave and care policies and make maternity protection a reality for all women everywhere. This is one the first important steps in the journey towards gender equality at work and a better future of work for all. These experts argued that maternity protection for all is feasible and countries, companies, workers and children cannot afford waiting.

There is encouraging progress. For instance, 75 per cent of the 166 States that participated in the 25-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action had introduced or strengthened maternity, paternity or parental leave. The European Union has a new directive that will help carers balance employment and family responsibilities. It introduces at least ten days’ paid leave for a baby’s second parent (e.g. fathers), five days’ paid leave per year for carers of a sick or dependent family member, and the right to request flexible working arrangements.

Access to good quality, affordable childcare is also part of the work-family equation. The ILO estimates that doubling the current public and private investment in care services to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would create 269 million new jobs by the year 2030. This confirms that investing in the care economy is the right and smart thing to do, as called for by the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work.

Offering family-friendly policies has become increasingly relevant for employers, since research on the business case is confirming that there are strategic benefits to the bottom line for companies connected with extending maternity and paternity leave or helping with childcare. Employers can tap into a larger pool of talents, reduce absenteeism and turnover, boost productivity and satisfaction; increase creativity and innovation, attract investors and buyers —all of which can contribute to profits for companies and quality working lives for parents—benefiting economies and societies.

Despite these benefits, a large number of companies, especially small and medium sized enterprises, still struggle to implement solutions. This is why WE EMPOWER G7 and IFC organized a training webinar showing how employers can tackle childcare, which companies are taking action and what’s the return of their investment . Also quality childcare services are linked to the qualifications and decent work of early childhood education personnel.

The year 2020 is marking the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and a renewed international commitment to accelerate the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality through UN Women’s Generation Equality. This year is also marking the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the ILO Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183), which calls for at least 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. WE EMPOWER G7 calls its Community to commit to guarantee paid leave to all parents in every workplace and company. Take this pledge when you sign up to the WEPs and share your story. Can you afford not to in 2020? The time for gender equality is now! 

For additional information, please see the following resources:


Photographer & Videographer Credit: ILO
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