When the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, many people told me that finally, we’d be able to cross out all the entrenched gender inequities in the workplace. Women leaving the workforce because of incompatibility with their caregiving duties, the gender pay gap, the lack of women in leadership positions…
The name of the magic bullet? Flexible and remote working.
My answer? That flexibility was not enough, as I demonstrated in the report I co-authored on the effect of COVID-19 on the unpaid work of professional women.
As I anticipated three years ago, hybrid working hasn’t delivered on its promise to bridge the chasm between caregiving and a thriving career.
Let’s run three thought experiments to put our current systems to the test. Are they serving us well?
[Economics thought experiment #1] Childcare vs Caring for the neighbour’s children
Amy and John are neighbours. They know each other’s family and each has one baby and one toddler.
Given the high costs of caregiving, Amy and John decided to put their careers on hold for 3 years and instead care for their own children full-time.
During those three years, everybody around Amy and John considers they are unemployed. That includes
- Their family and friends.
- The International Labor Organisation (ILO), which considers persons employed as those “who worked for at least one hour for pay or profit in the short reference period.”
During three years, from Monday to Friday
- Amy goes to John’s house and cares for John’s children for £1.
- Conversely, John goes to Amy’s house and cares for Amy’s children for £1.
During those three years, everybody around Amy and John considers that they ARE employed. That includes
- Their family and friends.
- The International Labor Organisation (ILO).
Same results if we swap childcare with eldercare.
If a person provides unpaid care to her family, we refer to it as a “staying-at-home parent”. However, if they perform the same tasks for a salary, then they become “domestic workers”.
[Economics thought experiment #2] Maternity leave vs Gap year
Two people decide to take a year off.
- Person #1 takes a year of maternity leave.
- Person #2 takes a gap year to travel the world.
How are they perceived before they leave?
- Person #1 is not committed to their career.
- Person #2 wants to expand their horizons.
And when they are back to work?
- Person #1 is considered in the #MommyTrack after a year of “inactivity”.
- Person #2 has acquired valuable transferable leadership skills throughout a year of “life-changing experiences”.
[Economics thought experiment #3] Two-child benefit cap vs No cap
In the UK, child tax credits are capped to two children for children born after 6 April 2017. In practice
- In practice, if your children are born before 6 April 2017, you get paid £545 (basic amount), and then up to £3,235 for each child.
- If one or more of your children were born on or after 6 April 2017, you could get £3,235 for up to 2 children.
- You’ll only get the £545 (basic amount) if at least one of your children was born before 6 April 2017.
What’s the rationale behind capping this outrageous sum of money for 2 children? Apparently, this should encourage parents of larger families to find a job or work more hours.
Counterevidence #1 — “It has affected an estimated 1.5 million children, and research has shown that the policy has impoverished families rather than increasing employment. As many as one in four children in some of England and Wales’s poorest constituencies are in families left at least £3,000 poorer by the policy. It also found that in the most ethnically diverse communities, 14% of children were hit by the cap”.
Counterevidence #2 — China was often vilified for its one-child policy, which taxed families that dared to have more than one child.
The policy was enforced at the provincial level through contraception, abortion, and fines that were imposed based on the income of the family and other factors. Population and Family Planning Commissions existed at every level of government to raise awareness and carry out registration and inspection work.
The fine was a so-called “social maintenance fee”, the punishment for families with more than one child. According to the policy, families who violated the law created a burden on society. Therefore, social maintenance fees were to be used for the operation of the government.Wikipedia
Counterevidence #3 — “Abolishing the two-child limit would cost £1.3bn a year but lift 250,000 children out of poverty and a further 850,000 children out of deep poverty, say campaigners. Joseph Howes, chair of the End Child Poverty Coalition, said: “It is the most cost-effective way that this, or any future, government has of reducing the number of children living in poverty.””
The defense rests.
PS. We’re halfway into 2023. How do you feel about your goals?
Book a strategy session with me to explore how coaching can help you to become your own version of success.