By GRETEL KILLEEN
Now, like many of you I haven’t a clue who to vote for so this is not a political party piece. Like many of you too, I’m a working mother and a strident advocate of women’s rights. But I cringe at the suggestion that any parental payment plan is a sign that respect is being shown for women as carers.
The fact is that women are the primary carers – not only of babies who are needy and vulnerable – but similarly of the disabled, the ill and the elderly. And, as far as I know, there ain’t no payment or government endorsed job security thing going on there.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why women who temporarily leave the workforce to care for their babies are paid leave and their position held within a company, while women who are forced to leave the workforce to care for the disabled, ill or their own parents are given no such safety nets nor social reassurances?
Perhaps because the elderly and the disabled are not ‘cute’ subjects.
Perhaps because babies are on public display while the sick and the elderly are often bed-ridden or housebound, out of sight, out of mind.
Perhaps because the mere thought of the difficulties of the life of a carer is potentially so damn confronting that we choose not to think about it all and imagine that it only happens to ‘other people.’
But the fact is that so many women today are not only caring for babies in the form of their grandchildren but also for their elderly parents that a British think tank has announced that women over fifty should receive ‘granny leave’ from their jobs. Why? Because the impact of caring is causing these women to lose their jobs in a society in which unemployment figures for women over fifty have doubled over the past five years and women over fifty are the new poor.