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(en) Italy, FDCA, Cantier #24: Bonus (kindergartens) for mothers: a choice in favor of women? (ca, de, it, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Fri, 12 Apr 2024 10:26:16 +0300

In the 2024 budget law, the Meloni government has included, with great emphasis from the Minister for Equal Opportunities Eugenia Roccella, measures to support families, female employment and the further declining birth rate. ---- These measures mainly concern: ---- a) an increase in the bonus for nursery school for families with an ISEE of less than 40,000 euros, ---- b) a reduction in social security contributions for working mothers of 3 or more children with a permanent employment relationship. ---- With respect to the first point, it should be highlighted that it is a measure that risks having a very limited effect considering the scarcity of nests, and often, where they exist, they do not have enough places.

In fact, the coverage rates of childcare services are significantly lower in Italy compared to the European average: 26.3% against 47.2% for the 0-3 year age group, without considering the notable territorial disparity seen the southern regions are particularly lacking in this respect given that the coverage of childcare services in the Centre-North is almost double that of the South.

However, as regards the question of decontribution for working mothers, it is a discriminatory measure because it is designed only for those with at least 3 children (two on an experimental basis for only 2 years) and, above all, because it concerns women employed on a permanent basis, i.e. a category extremely minority and, in some way "privileged" compared to the majority of women with precarious work.

In fact, according to ISTAT data, just over a third of women of reproductive age (18-45 years) have permanent employment and of these only 1.28% have three children.

It is clear that it is a maneuver more for effect than substance and certainly does not affect the problem of the birth rate decline, as it was intended to be presented.

To obtain significant results in this regard, structural interventions would be necessary, especially with respect to the issue of job insecurity whose levels, in our country, are much higher than in many Central-Northern European countries, especially for women.

Furthermore, a problem not concretely addressed is the insufficient number of nursery places, lower than that of the pre-pandemic years and with long waiting lists, a problem which, combined with that of the scarcity of nursery schools which provide for the exemption of fees in relation to economic conditions of families, penalizes the most disadvantaged families both from an economic and geographical point of view.

The nursery bonus is therefore an intervention that is based once again on the idea that financial payments alone are a sufficient lever to support parenting. But the most dangerous aspect that emerges from this maneuver is a vision that considers care work, that of children and the elderly, still almost exclusively on the shoulders of women.

It is the idea of family promoted by President Meloni and her government, an idea that is based precisely on the non-sharing of the care work entrusted to mothers, wives and daughters.

After all, what to expect from a government in which a member of the prime minister's party calmly states that the highest aspiration for a woman is to be a mother (!!!).

Or when a municipal councilor of Fratelli d'Italia in Arezzo proposes to penalize in the nursery ranking those children who have grandmothers under 70 without particular health problems, conveying the idea that the nursery is not an insertion phase and socialization in the child's development, but essentially a parking lot and that the best thing is for the mother or, alternatively, the grandmother to take care of it. All this in the face of all the pedagogy that identifies nursery school as an important tool for the development of the personality of girls and boys

All things considered, in short, the much-vaunted measures in favor of motherhood are completely insufficient and contradictory given that they benefit the strongest women and not the most fragile. Indeed, what is the point of reducing contributions to permanent workers who have their third child when the majority of women barely have one and almost always have a precarious job?

And then what is the point of increasing the nursery school bonus when the majority of places in these services are concentrated in the North (where, moreover, the amount of fees is much higher than what is foreseen by the bonus) while they are conspicuously scarce in the South where perhaps there would be some more need to promote female employment?

In this way, the gap between the northern and southern regions with fewer services, less work and, obviously, fewer opportunities for women is further accentuated.

Regarding the problem of the birth rate decline, the latest ISTAT census shows a downward demographic curve.

Suffice it to say that in 2022 only 392 thousand children were born with a decrease of 1.7% compared to the previous year, equal to 7,000 fewer births.

It is therefore clear that it is on this aspect that it is necessary to intervene, but not with spot measures like those proposed by the government, but rather with structural interventions consistent with the objective.

But if the combination of motherhood and work continues to be incompatible due to the socio-economic conditions that women face, it will be difficult to reverse this trend.

Without prejudice to the fact that the choice of motherhood must still remain a choice and the right of every woman to freely decide not to be a mother must be fully respected without this becoming a social stigma, in Italy the percentage of childless women has doubled, going from 10 % for those born in the 40s to 21% for those born in the 80s and often the absence of children is the unintentional outcome of the decision to delay the birth for reasons almost always of an economic and work nature

Therefore, in order to bring about a change in this regard, it is necessary, first of all, to increase stable and dignified female employment, to reduce the wage gap and, last but not least, to put in place concrete tools for sharing care work.

Regarding this point, it is worth underlining that paternity leave in Italy is absolutely inadequate given that the number of days available to fathers is only 10 days, a far cry from that expected, for example, in Spain which is 16 weeks.

It is clear that 10 days will certainly not be able to make a difference in terms of fully sharing family responsibilities, nor will it be able to effectively combat discrimination when entering the world of work, which especially affects women.

At the same time, another "gem" of this government is what is foreseen in the budget law on the problem of non-self-sufficiency which is the other side of the same coin, where an "extremely innovative provision which aims to build a new welfare model" was presented which will allow us to give concrete answers to the needs of over 14 million elderly people, of which 3.8 are not self-sufficient" as explained by the deputy minister of labor Maria Teresa Bellucci (FdI).

It's a shame, however, that on closer inspection the amount allocated in the budget law will only concern an audience of just 25,000 elderly people, therefore far from the figures advertised and above all far from solving the problem.

Yet this provision should have put into practice the enabling law 33/2023 for the reform of care for the elderly, a particularly felt reform considering that we are a country with an ever-increasing number of elderly people, often with serious pathologies and not self-sufficient, who would require quality home or residential care and who instead, once again, are left on the shoulders of families and in particular women.

Beyond the propaganda that is bandied about on a daily basis, especially through the media, which are largely now completely subservient to the executive, it is clear that this government is essentially moving with a view to overcoming the universal welfare model, replacing it with a family-based idea where precisely it is the family (and therefore the woman) who has to take care of all aspects related to care, from childhood to non-self-sufficient elderly people.

An idea which, let it be clear, was not born with this government but has found a favorable humus in the various governments that have followed one another and which have moved from a liberal perspective in which the privatization processes, starting from healthcare to arrive up to education, passing through the pension system and many other public services, they have carried out an attack on the welfare state and the conditions of the working class, all this accompanied by a substantially misogynistic and patriarchal vision which, in fact, relegates women to roles subordinate, marginal and discriminating.

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