Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Flexibility won't stop women retiring in Poverty

I came across a story in a small online independent Australian paper called Newmatilda that is interesting and which makes some important points for women and governments in all countries. Newmatilda is well worth taking a look at as it has many interesting and provocative stories

The post was written by Petra Bueskens on October 30, of last year. The post is called Flexibility won't stop women retiring in Poverty.  Some background, in Australia, if you are working you pay into a Superannuation fund over your working life and when you retire, that fund is used as your pension.

The problem is that women, take time out of work to raise children and when they are working earn only 72% of what a man makes. The Australian government is trying to close the pension gap between men and women. A commendable goal, but as your read the article, you realize that they are not going to be successful. All neoliberal models give freedom of choice to men and to women and in their model women are free as individuals to work and earn as much as they want, which is not how society works.

The entire article is worth a read, but I will highlight some of the points I found interesting and important below:

The majority of women don’t earn enough to be able to do so and their “disrupted” work histories – note the assumption that care is a “disruption” – mean their contributions, even if increased while on maternity leave, will not be comparable with men’s.

The pay gap is one issue here. Women working full-time earn 18 percent less than men and, over a lifetime, this makes a significant difference.

The suggestions Morrison is putting on the table fail to address this basic issue – that work culture is incompatible with caregiving and thus the majority of women earn significantly less than men over their lifetime.

Women take “time out” to care for children and time out to care for aging and ailing relatives. Basically women are doing the caring, or what anthropologists more poetically call the “kin keeping”. This is the social and emotional glue that ties us all into relationships, families and communities

In the neoliberal model women are free as individuals to work and earn as much as they want (or can), but as mothers they are constrained to a life of unremunerated care. Of course, they are now somehow expected to do both without adequate structural or social support

As Professor Treas also showed, although women try to resolve the contradictions between work and home individually, in fact they are systemic issues that can only be resolved at a systemic level.

Sentimentality about motherhood doesn’t pay the rent or put food on the table and it doesn’t pay the electricity bill for an older single woman who has spent a lifetime caring for others and who now faces a society who cannot, or rather will not, care for her.

One innovative way of ameliorating the pervasive feminisation of poverty is the introduction of a universal basic income. This would redistribute wealth across the population and in particular to the poorest sectors of the community, which as is well known, is overwhelmingly made of women and their dependents.

As foremost scholar of basic income, Professor Carole Pateman argues the introduction of basic income both democratises citizenship and breaks down the “the mutual reinforcement of the institutions of marriage, employment, and citizenship”. Basic income is something politicians need to put onto the table if they truly want to ameliorate gender gaps in wealth and stop women accumulating poverty over their lifetimes.

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