The face of poverty is more often women, and the current pandemic has brought this to light. The link between insecurity and structural inequalities between the sexes is still relatively unknown, notes Caritas, which relies on long-standing social and charitable expertise. In its 2022 social almanac, the organization examines the various facets of this scourge. Which despite its name is not a death. Overview.
For women, recalls Morgane Kuehni, a professor at the University of Social Work in Lausanne, the risk of poverty is twofold: their family situation does not always allow them to work full-time, and they often work in low-wage sectors. More generally, the deregulation of the labor market and its flexibility have led to an increase in underemployment since the 1970s (three times higher among women) or involuntary part-time work.
But one of the main reasons why women are more affected by poverty than men is cultural: mothers are still considered solely responsible for the home and children, recalls Nicole Baur, city councilor and delegate for gender equality in the canton of Neuchâtel. And this vision does not change quickly: in 2015, 29% of boys and 15% of girls, born in 1997, believed that when a child is born, the best family organization is the “full-time father and living room”. homemaker. The “both part-time model” appealed to 29% of the boys, but 41% of the girls.
Similarly, the financing of elderly care is presumed to be a private matter in Switzerland. It is dependent on caregivers – who are mostly caregivers. While in OECD countries on average 85% of long-term care is financed by public funds, this proportion is less than 40% in Switzerland, notes researcher Sarah Schilliger, sociologist and teacher at the universities of Bern and Zurich.
Switzerland is exporting its crisis
This situation nourishes the precarious situation of many women. “If men felt responsible for the home and fireplace,” writes journalist Martin Arnold, “they would have already filled the domestic void that has been created as careers, or simply female employment, have developed… But they do. not, and it is other women who intervene. When they come from Romania, Peru or Ecuador and miss their own children at home, they sometimes have to be available 24 hours a day, are “desperately underpaid” and sometimes victims of abuse.
Since 2011, a nationwide agreement has set a minimum wage for carers and housekeepers. The rest is left to the discretion of the cantons, who are not obliged to apply the rules on working hours, breaks or holidays. By 2021, half of the cantons had not taken over the specific federal regulations from 2018 that apply to people caring for the elderly. They are mostly women, and more and more of them. In 2013, there were 900 of those working as a nanny in Switzerland compared to 6,000 in 2019.
In German-speaking Switzerland, about 60 placement agencies offer assistance 24 hours a day (paid for about 5.4 hours a day, plus three hours of care paid five francs). But the commitments have also been made informally, and the Swiss statistics on migration and work do not register this 24-hour home help as a separate group. The personal care crisis that Switzerland is exporting in this way is therefore still a poorly documented phenomenon which helps it to slip under the radar.
The logic behind capitalist exploitation
But why are the jobs we are most dependent on so poorly paid? For money goes to priority, where returns are high, notes Mathias Binswanger, professor of economics at the University of Applied Sciences in northwestern Switzerland, in a pure capitalist logic of exploitation, and that the savings happen where there is no profit, even if it is there, human life is at stake.
Caritas’s almanac outlines some solutions, such as the fight against low wages, the redistribution of work as a whole, the reform of the 2.and the pillar – to which 30% of women do not even have access – but also the strengthening of access to education, the significant increase in childcare structures – as the difficulty of reconciling work and family is the main reason for the low employment rate for women – and the adoption of tariffs , which are favorable for low incomes (only 25% of these households send their children to crèche).
Social Almanac 2022, (Inequality): female povertyCaritas Editions, Lucerne, 2022