Sunday, April 15, 2007

Earth to Conservatives: Women have a life, too...

In the wake of past efforts to improve childcare measures, the Conservative government had already made clear to the Canadian population that such measures would be at the expense of moms in the workforce.

Remember when they made those budgets cuts in federal funding for public daycare programs, and substituted “childcare allocations” of $1,200 per annum for families with children under 6? WOW. What a bargain. You really have to applaud those geniuses who did the math and figured that families did not incur any daycare expenses when their children turn 6. I’m just so impressed.

But that’s not all! The Conservative have just come up with yet another wacky proposition to keep women where they should be, that is, at home, making babies, lactating, and picking up after their offspring. A Cabinet-appointed panel, the Ministerial Advisory Committee on the Government of Canada's Child Care Spaces Initiative, recently released the result of a study that was supposed to find solutions to the problem of the lack of spaces in daycare facilities.

The solution? Extending Employment Insurance benefits for parents from 50 weeks to 2 ½ years (which would allow stay-at-home parents to receive the equivalent of 55% of their salary), so as to provide an incentive to parents to stay at home to care for their children as long as possible.

Besides the obvious question of the tax increase that will be necessary to fund this measure, you’ve got to admire the reasoning behind this:

1) Women rely on daycare facilities to care for their children so that they can work ;
2) All women can’t work because there is a shortage of daycare spaces for their children ;
3) The Harper government appoints a Committee to find solutions to increase the number of available daycare spaces in order to allow women to work;
4) The Committee finds out that women who do not work and stay at home to care for their children because they can’t put them in daycares instead, don’t send their children in daycare.
5) The Committee recommends that if women stay home to care for their children, there will be more available daycare spaces.

Seriously : WTF ?!? Am I missing on something ?

If you can forget the blatant lack of logic of this plan for a minute, and look at the substance of it, it strikes you with its hypocrisy.

On the one hand, while this recommendation purports to benefit *parents*, its actual effect, if and when it is implemented, will be to remove women from the workforce on a long term basis. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that EI benefits, when they are available to either or both parents, are close to essential to child-rearing. But they should not constitute an impediment to reintegrate the workforce, nor a disguised incentive for women to assume traditional roles and abandon their lives and careers outside the home.
Do the math. Suppose you’re a women in your mid-20s, and you have three children, 3 years apart. That’s a 7.5 year period out of the workplace, during which you have presumably not acquired additional professional skills, education or experience. Just try and find a job after that…

On the other hand, the rationale behind giving EI benefits on such a long period of time is either (1) that it is a social imperative that women stay at home to care for their young children, otherwise those kids will grow up to become delinquents and that will be the end of modern society as we know it, or (2) that women just work because they need the money, they would rather stay at home doing womanly things if they had a husband or the State to support them.

Either way, it is insulting and demeaning not only to mothers, but also to all the women in the workforce.

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