‘The world’s most under-utilised resource’

Screen shot 2015-05-12 at 7.07.39 PMThis Mother’s Day the Federal Government released its $3.5 billion Jobs for Families child care package, claiming that this would provide greater choice for more than 1.2 million families by delivering a simpler, more affordable, more flexible, and more accessible child care system.

The media coverage of this package with its heavy emphasis on encouraging increased workforce participation for women has been poor, concentrating on stories of the usual winners and losers along with the Nationals who are worried that families with a stay-at-home parent are being overlooked. But it fails to mention ‘Why Joe Hockey and the G20 need women onside’.

In her article on The ConversationDirector of Studies, Asia Pacific College of Diplomacy at Australian National University, Susan Harris Rimmer claims that while Australian women were well aware of the 2014 G20 summit in Brisbane, they probably did not think it had much relevance to their daily lives. But of course it did and here’s why.

A key initiative in Australia’s 2014 G20 was to lift global growth by a cumulative additional 2% by 2018, above what the IMF was forecasting in the October 2013 World Economic Outlook. This growth was to be achieved by more women working. Rimmer asserts that ‘women are now seen as a valuable economic resource.’

Rimmer quotes The Economist:

“Forget China, India or the Internet”, “economic growth is driven by women”. “Women complain (rightly) of centuries of exploitation. Yet, to an economist, women are not exploited enough: they are the world’s most under-utilised resource.”

Women’s labour force participation (ages 15–64) worldwide over the last two decades has stagnated, declining from 57 to 55% globally. The rates of women entering the world of paid work declined for the first time since World War II.

One of the recommendations from the OECD to Australia to further the participation of women and therefore economic growth was to:

“Improve performance of early childhood education by reforming childcare support to account for the high cost of pre-primary education and to encourage parents’ labour force participation.”

So it’s no surprise that we now have this package with its emphasis on getting more women to work and that impediments such insufficient childcare, and inflexible working arrangements must be removed.

Doing paid work has its obvious rewards but so does unpaid work. Women should be able to spend months or years at home with their babies and young children and not be concerned about their lack of contribution to economic growth. 

But don’t expect to find any analysis in today’s media.

Once again I turn to feminist analysis such as this amazing book written by Sinith Sittirak- The Daughters of Development : Women in a changing Environment, in which she critiques the Western concept of development and its effect on her motherland Thailand.

Screen shot 2015-05-12 at 2.53.57 PMThe author looks at the wreckage ‘progress’ has wreaked on the lives of Thai sex workers and indigenous peoples and contrasts this with a portrait of her own ‘underdeveloped’ mother, a ‘gardener, agriculturalist, cook, entertainer, tool and toy inventor, home economist, ecologist and environmentalist.’ Sittarak introduces us to her 75 year-old mother who has never applied for a job in her life. She has never written a resume. If she was to write one, she would probably write a short one-sentence resume: a housewife for 58 years.

This week we celebrate National Volunteer Week 2015. Speaking on radio today, RN’s Michael Mackenzie pointed to the irony that as we observe Volunteer Week the media hype about value of paid work prevails. Little if any mention will be given to the recent data which puts the value of volunteering at $290 billion a year.

We have truly lost our way and as ecofeminist and author Maria Mies cited in The Daughters of Development wrote

the prevailing world market system, oriented toward unending growth and profit, cannot be maintained unless it can exploit external and internal colonies: nature, women and other people.

And so it is that the Federal Government’s $3.5 billion Jobs for Families child care package exploits nature, women and other people.




















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