Tag Archives: Invisible work

Midwives: Symbol of Women’s Work Invisibility (France)

Les sages-femmes ne veulent plus être des invisibles

Alexandra Chaignon . Lundi, 18 Novembre, 2013

Les sages-femmes ne veulent plus être des invisibles

Cigognes mais pas pigeons… Depuis un mois, les sages-femmes sont massivement en grève pour une reconnaissance de leur profession, qu’elles jugent « inconnue ».  Et s’impatientent sérieusement… Des rassemblements sont organisés à Paris devant le ministère de la Santé et en province devant les Agence régionale de santé (ARS) ce mardi.

Depuis le 16 octobre, comme la majeure partie des quelque 20 000 sages-femmes de France, Marie (1) est en grève illimitée, un mouvement suivi à près de 90 % dans les maternités parisiennes (70 % à l’échelle nationale). Sur la manche de sa blouse rose, un brassard avec l’inscription «en grève». Assignée, elle continue néanmoins d’assurer la prise en charge des patientes. À l’appel de six organisations professionnelles de santé  (2), la jeune femme est descendue dans la rue le 7 novembre dernier, comme plusieurs milliers de ses collègues, pour dire son « ras-le-bol » et, surtout, dénoncer le « manque de reconnaissance » de sa profession. Son métier, Marie l’a choisi. Et elle l’aime. Mais elle a aujourd’hui du mal à l’exercer dans des conditions satisfaisantes, explique-t-elle, répétant qu’elle se sent « usée, fatiguée et ignorée ». Dans la maternité publique où elle travaille, elle enchaîne des journées de douze heures, tantôt en salle d’accouchement, tantôt en suite de couches, tantôt en consultations gynécologiques ou encore en cours de préparation à l’accouchement.

500 accouchements de plus en trois ans !

« On n’arrive pas à prendre en charge nos patientes comme on l’aimerait », confirme Agathe, sage-femme à la maternité de l’hôpital Louis-Mourier de Colombes (Hauts-de-Seine). Dans son service, elles sont 33 sages-femmes. Insuffisant pour « travailler correctement ». « On assure la sécurité des soins, mais pas la qualité », déplore la jeune femme, diplômée en 2010. « Il y a trois ans, on faisait 2 500 accouchements ici. Aujourd’hui, on dépasse les 3 000… On sent bien la différence. On est tout le temps sous pression… » « La loi HPST appliquée aux maternités, c’est concrètement 6 000 accouchements à Trousseau, mais aussi des fermetures de maternités et les postes supprimés. Et au final, on se retrouve avec plus de patientes et moins de sages-femmes », abonde Astrid Petit, sage-femme en HAD (hospitalisation à domicile) de l’Assistance publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP).

Alors que dans les hôpitaux, elles réalisent près de 80 % des accouchements, les sages-femmes restent « inconnues et invisibles », insiste Caroline Raquin, présidente de l’Organisation nationale syndicale des sages-femmes (ONSSF). De fait, les sages-femmes ne sont pas que des « accoucheuses ». « Nous avons les compétences pour effectuer le suivi gynécologique de l’adolescence à la ménopause des femmes qui ne présentent pas de pathologie », précise Nicolas Dutriaux, du Collège national des sages-femmes de France (CNSFF), rappelant que, dans ce mouvement, sages-femmes hospitalières et libérales marchent main dans la main. Des compétences qui devraient leur donner la possibilité d’être considérées comme « praticiens de premier recours », ce qui permettrait aux patientes de les consulter directement.

« Une étude a confirmé que les femmes qui bénéficient de soins dispensés par une sage-femme tout au long de leur grossesse jusqu’à l’accouchement sont moins susceptibles d’accoucher prématurément et ont nécessité moins d’interventions pendant le travail de l’accouchement », rappelle Caroline Raquin. Un point de vue partagé par la Cour des comptes qui, en 2011, préconisait un renforcement du rôle des sages-femmes dans la chaîne des soins.

La rénovation du statut et la création d’une filière maïeutique, revendique la CGT

Pour les organisations professionnelles à l’origine du mouvement, cette reconnaissance passe avant tout par l’obtention d’un statut de praticien hospitalier pour les sages-femmes de la fonction publique hospitalière. Si le Code de la santé publique définit les sages-femmes comme une profession médicale, comme les médecins, dans les faits, elles sont pour l’heure assimilées aux professions paramédicales. « Notre profession est médicale, insiste Géraldine, sage-femme à la maternité de Louis-Mourier, détaillant les cinq années d’études, dont une première année de médecine obligatoire. « Nous avons le droit de pratiquer, toutes les compétences pour le faire, de même que la responsabilité pénale. En cas de plainte devant la justice, nous sommes responsables au même titre qu’un médecin. Nous demandons juste la régularisation de notre statut. » Une revendication qui n’est pas partagée. Intégrer ce statut supposerait que les sages-femmes des hôpitaux renoncent à celui de fonctionnaire et « implique des contrats précaires de droit public », explique Vincent Cicero, secrétaire de l’Union nationale et syndicale des sages-femmes. Pour les centrales syndicales, CGT en tête, on plaide plutôt pour « la rénovation du statut » (lire ci-dessous l’entretien avec Astrid Petit de la CGT) et la création d’une filière maïeutique mais toujours au sein de la fonction publique hospitalière. Pour la CGT, le changement statutaire doit intervenir après les salaires.

1 610 euros en début de carrière

Au-delà de la divergence des points de vue sur le statut, l’exigence commune est en effet d’être mieux payées. Le salaire net des sages-femmes est actuellement de 1 610 euros en début de carrière et 2 691 euros en fin de carrière. Un salaire « correct » mais « injuste quand on le compare à celui d’un infirmier anesthésiste ». D’autant qu’elles font cinq ans d’études pour n’être reconnues qu’à bac+3. Et surtout, « nos salaires stagnent depuis 2002 », pointe Astrid, insatisfaite des propositions du ministère de la Santé sur le sujet. « Les sages-femmes ne peuvent se contenter d’un simple rattrapage (162 euros brut par mois en moyenne) », dénonce l’intersyndicale Unsa, SUD santé, FO et CGT, à laquelle s’est associé l’UNSSF. « La situation est très préoccupante, estime Astrid Petit. J’ai peur que la ministre n’ait pas compris le degré de colère des sages-femmes. »

« Sur le fond, nous sommes tous d’accord pour réclamer une reconnaissance de la profession », reconnaît Caroline Raquin. « Derrière le mot “reconnaissance”, il y a les conditions de travail et les salaires », admet aussi Astrid Petit, qui souligne que la CGT est « en phase avec les revendications de fond ». Et tous attendent avec impatience la réunion de demain au ministère de la Santé sur l’avenir de la profession.

(1) Le prénom a été modifié.

(2) ONSSF, CNSFF, CFTC, ANSFC, CNEM, ANESF.

Repères. Entre 1990 et 2010, en France métropolitaine, le nombre de sages-femmes recensées par la Drees 
est passé de 10 705 à 19 208. En France, les résultats 
de l’enquête périnatale de 2010 montrent que seulement 11,7 % 
des femmes ont consulté principalement une sage-femme pendant leur grossesse et seules 5,4 % ont consulté une sage-femme en début de grossesse. Selon le panorama de la santé 2009 de l’OCDE : en 2007, la densité des sages-femmes (57 pour 100 000 femmes) était inférieure à la moyenne OCDE (72 pour 100 000). Les sages-femmes 
ont en moyenne 42,2 ans. Les sages-femmes sont hospitalières à titre exclusif 
dans 75 % des cas.

From: http://www.humanite.fr/les-sages-femmes-ne-veulent-plus-etre-des-invisibles

Balancing paid work, unpaid work and leisure (OECD Countries)

07/03/2014 –

Greater gender equality in working hours is not just about more women in full-time employment. It is also about more men reducing their long hours in paid work. Although detailed information is available for a limited number of OECD countries, data on the usual hours worked per week illustrate how the prevalence of long and short working hours differs across countries and the sexes.

Among the sample of countries, the United Kingdom has the longest working hours culture: more than 20% of employed men usually work 40 to 50 hours per week and another 20% working more than 50 hours per week. In the Czech Republic, France and Poland, 20% of employed men also usually work for more than 50 hours per week, considerably more than in the other countries, including Germany, Hungary, Scandinavian countries and the Slovak Republic.

France and the United Kingdom are also the countries where most women usually work more than 40 hours per week (over 15%). At the same time, many British women work part-time (hyperlink to the indicator), while the prevailing “35 hours working week” contributes to most women working less than 40 hours per week in France.

The forty hour working week is the overriding working hours’ pattern for both men and women in the Czech and Slovak Republics, Poland and Hungary. In Finland, Norway and Sweden collective and/or sectoral agreements often lead to usual weekly working hours of around 37.5 hours per week. Indeed, the long working hours’ culture is not pervasive in Scandinavian countries, which contributes to the general perception in these countries that pursuing both active work- and family lives are compatible aspirations for both fathers and mothers.

 The Distribution of usual hours worked among men and women in employment

Source: OECD Employment database  

 Over the last 50 years, women decreased their hours of unpaid work as they increased the hours of paid work. Men have been doing more housework and child care, but they didn’t take up the slack so gender inequalities in the use of time are still large in all countries. Turkish women spend the most time doing unpaid work, such as housework or shopping, at 377 minutes a day, followed by Mexican women at 373. This compares to their menfolk: Mexican men who spend an average of 113 minutes on unpaid work and Korean men who spend only 45 minutes, the least of all. If we look at the sum of paid and unpaid work, women work more than men (2.6 hours more per week on average across the OECD).

When it comes to time spent on personal care, including eating and sleeping, the gap between the sexes is much smaller. French women spend the most time in personal care, at 755, just ahead of Italian women at 697. Their men spend almost as much time (738) –  just ahead of Italian males at 697.

In virtually every country, men are able to fit in valuable extra minutes of leisure each day while women spend more time doing unpaid housework.

Time spent in unpaid work and leisure

Minutes per day

infographic on time use

Source: OECD based on data from National Time Use Surveys.

From: http://www.oecd.org/gender/data/balancingpaidworkunpaidworkandleisure.htm

The pride of working women – Algeria

A new ILO study examines the constraints on working women in Algeria and the opportunities available to them.

ALGIERS (ILO News) – “I am proud of my work, but the men say that we have taken their jobs. Our society is unyielding.”This statement by a 42 year old Algerian woman from Tissemsilt shows that the employment of women is still a matter for debate in Algeria – as in numerous other countries.

Despite the considerable advances seen in the Algerian political sphere, where women constitute over 31 per cent of the deputies to the National Assembly (*), their economic participation remains very low.

In 2011, with a proportion of 17.7 per cent of women in the workforce, Algeria – alongside Iraq and Syria – was among the countries with the lowest level of female economic participation in the world – according to an ILO study pending publication (**). Women are, nevertheless, gradually beginning to enter the workforce. According to the National Statistical Office of Algeria, by 2013 the female labour force participation rate had risen to 19 per cent.

“Invisible” home-based activities

According to the ILO study, the female labour force participation rate is held back by a multitude of complex, notably sociocultural, factors.

Parts of the population do not consider that women who perform unpaid home-based activities in such areas as the agricultural, livestock, textile and clothing sectors are really part of the labour force.

The weight of tradition or certain family constraints restrict women’s work and travel opportunities.

Young women often have little contact with the world outside their family circle and are also less well informed and less prepared for entrepreneurial life. Families are often more inclined to provide moral and financial support to boys for enterprise-creation projects.

The lady from Tissemsilt herself told the ILO investigators: “I would like my daughter to go to university, but I do not want her to work. I would like her to study, to become cultured and to achieve all she can at university, that would be a good thing, but I would prefer her not to work as she will never be respected at work. The men have no respect for young women.”

This statement by a wife and mother of five children, which appears in the ILO study, speaks volumes about cultural obstacles to the participation of women in working life.

Hearing what women have to say

In addition to conducting a detailed analysis of labour market statistics for women between 2001 and 2011, the study’s authors – Jacques Charmes and Malika Remaoun – also spoke to women directly in order to compare the statistical data collected with the daily reality experienced by Algerian women.

The women described their lives and ambitions and reflected on their own family, educational and occupational experiences. The study presents a number of positive developments seen in women’s employment, which are the result of various mechanisms put in place for them by the authorities.

The report stresses, however, that women hold their destiny in their own hands and future progress will depend on their determination to push back the boundaries and overcome obstacles.

Concluding the debate more eloquently than any statistic, one woman entrepreneur from Tiaret notes:

“It is also a question of not wanting to be dependent on men, of having a career, of demonstrating one’s true abilities. And I think that women are more determined, they have more to offer.”

* In accordance with a law passed in November 2011, which imposes a female quota of 20–50 per cent of the seats on their list.
** Les contraintes et opportunités pour l’emploi des femmes en Algérie, ILO, Algiers, 2014 (pending publication).

Women’s invisible work: Public strategies that are explicitly oriented towards reducing and redistributing unpaid work will do more than just help the women in the economy.

Invisible work

JAYATI GHOSH

Public strategies that are explicitly oriented towards reducing and redistributing unpaid work will do more than just help the women in the economy.

LINGARAJ PANDA

A woman and her daughters collecting firewood on the outskirts of Berhampur in Orissa. Subsistence work done by women is not counted as an economic activity.  

WORK defines the conditions of human existence in many ways. This may be even more relevant for women than for men because the responsibility for social reproduction – which largely devolves upon women in most societies – ensures that the vast majority of women are inevitably involved in some kind of productive and/or reproductive activity.

Despite this, in mainstream discussion, the importance of women’s work generally receives marginal treatment simply because so much of the work they regularly perform is “invisible” in terms of market criteria or even in terms of socially dominant perceptions of what constitutes “work”. This leads to the social underestimation of women’s productive contribution and also means that inadequate attention is typically devoted to the conditions of women’s work and their implications for the general material conditions and well-being of women.

This is particularly true in developing countries, where patterns of market integration and the relatively high proportion of goods and services that are not marketed have implied that women’s contributions to productive activity extend well beyond those that are socially recognised and that the conditions under which many of these contributions are made entail significant pressure on women in a variety of ways.

In almost all societies, and particularly in developing countries, there remain essential but usually unpaid activities (such as housework and child care and community-based activities) that are seen as the responsibility of the women of the household. This social allocation tends to operate regardless of other work that women may perform.

For working women in lower-income groups, it is particularly difficult to find outside labour to substitute for household-based tasks, which therefore tend to devolve upon the young girls and aged women within the household or to put further pressure on the workload of the women workers themselves. In fact, it is wrong to assume that unpaid tasks by women would continue regardless of the way resources and incomes are allocated. “Gender neutral” economic policies may thus result in possible breaking points within the household or the collapse of women’s capacity.

Social provision for at least a significant part of such services and tasks or changes in the gender-wise division of labour with respect to household tasks, therefore, become important considerations when women are otherwise employed.

The relative invisibility of much of women’s work is now more widely recognised. Since many of the activities associated with household maintenance, provisioning and reproduction are not subject to explicit market relations, there is an inherent tendency to ignore the actual productive contribution of these activities. Similarly, social norms, values and perceptions also operate to render most household-based activity “invisible”. This invisibility gets directly transferred to data inadequacies, making officially generated data in most countries (and particularly in developing countries) very rough and imprecise indicators of the actual productive contribution of women.

Inaccurate data

RITU RAJ KONWAR

CHILDREN IN A Khasi village in Meghalaya helping to grind paddy. The Khasis are matriarchal, and apart from other outside work, all the household work is done by women.  

This means that the data on the participation of women in the labour force are notoriously inaccurate. Not only are the problems of undercounting and invisibility rife, but there are often substantial variations in data across countries, which may not reflect actual differences but may simply be a result of distinct methods of estimation. Further, even statistics over time for the same country may alter dramatically as a result of changed definitions of what constitutes “economically active” or because of more probing questions put to women or simply because of greater sensitivity on the part of the investigators.

The impact of social structures is reflected not merely in the data but in the actual determination of explicit labour market participation by women. Thus, in certain regions of India, social norms determine the choice between participation in production and involvement in reproduction and consequently inhibit the freedom of women to participate in the job market or engage in other forms of overt self-employment. The limitations on such freedom can take many forms. While the explicit social rules of some societies limit women’s access to many areas of public life, the implicit pressures in other supposedly more emancipated societies may operate no less forcefully to direct women into certain prescribed occupational channels.

All this is why the new book on unpaid work, Unpaid Work and the Economy: Gender, Time-use and Poverty in Developing Countries (edited by Rania Antonopoulos and Indira Hirway; Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), is so important.

The book combines methodological, theoretical, technical, empirical and policy-oriented discussion on this issue, which has been so understudied by economists and other social scientists. It raises two critical sets of questions: How does unpaid work affect the outcomes of the economy, and how does the paid economy impact the unpaid economy? How can the recognition of unpaid work be used to integrate it with development strategy? The first chapter, by the editors, provides an excellent introduction to the conceptual and empirical issues involved and shows the link to macroeconomic processes. Unpaid work can be seen as a subsidy to state provisioning or to private agents operating in markets, and either of these “externalities” are actually manifestations of a structural system that uses gender constructions to be exploitative and generate significant inequalities in time-use.

Vicious circle

Several other chapters in the book provide evidence based on time-use studies in various countries, ranging from Bolivia and South Africa to India and the Philippines. The evidence provided suggests clearly that most unpaid work is performed by women who are trapped in a vicious circle of drudgery and poverty and is driven not only by economic circumstances but by the availability of physical and social infrastructure. This underscores the importance of providing quality public services (especially in health, sanitation, child care, and so on) and infrastructure, of technological advances in typically unpaid activities that are time consuming and demanding, and of greater attention to the management and regeneration of natural resources.

This book makes the important point that while better statistics and data collection methods are essential they are not enough, and the recognition of unpaid work should not remain confined to giving it greater visibility by “counting” it. Rather, the point is, through knowing and interpreting the reality, one has to change it. So first of all, one must recognise the various categories of unpaid work in relation to production processes and daily fulfilment of basic needs. Four categories are defined in the book: unpaid work of family workers in family enterprises; subsistence work (such as collection of fuelwood and water for the household); unpaid household work such as cleaning and washing; and care of the other members of the household, including children, the old and the sick.

This then allows for a better understanding of how the conditions under which this work is performed hinders the integration of people’s labouring capabilities with desired development strategies. It is obvious that unpaid work requires both reduction overall (through more and better public provision, better infrastructure and technological changes) and redistribution to ensure more equitable burden, especially across gender. But the different categories of unpaid work may need to be addressed differently in terms of required policy responses. Thus, some forms of subsistence unpaid work would definitely be reduced through more and better public provision, especially of basic utilities and services. But reductions in unpaid care activities require a more careful and sensitive approach, such that public provision is made with sufficient resources and in a way that does not impede early childhood development or the adequate care of the aged and the sick.

The issue of unpaid work is often seen as a “gender” issue, and indeed, because of the way that it is distributed in most societies, it is certainly so. But the contribution of this book is to show that it is much more than that and is actually fundamentally a development issue. Public strategies that are explicitly oriented towards reducing and redistributing unpaid work will do more than help the women in the economy; they will make economic processes overall more stable, sustainable and productive.

From: http://www.frontline.in/navigation/?type=static&page=flonnet&rdurl=fl2703/stories/20100212270308100.htm

FRONTLINE
Volume 27 – Issue 03 :: Jan. 30-Feb. 12, 2010
INDIA’S NATIONAL MAGAZINE