The centre-right EPP Group in the European Parliament has called for the creation of a Europe-wide strategy focusing on carers, describing it as a priority and calling on the Union to take a more proactive role to support this vital sector and improve conditions for carers.
“We owe carers so much more than some applause!”, said Frances Fitzgerald MEP and Dennis Radtke MEP.
Fitzgerald, the EPP Group’s Spokeswoman on Women’s Rights, and Radtke, Spokesman on Employment, have set out their key policy proposals for the development of an EU Carers’ Strategy in a joint initiative launched today (Monday).
“A variety of care services exist across the EU, including childcare with early education, care services for older persons and that for persons with disabilities or chronic diseases. However, the quality of such varies greatly both within and between the Member States. In addition, 80 percent of all care across the EU is provided by informal carers, most of whom are women (75%), are low paid, do not pay social contributions and as a result do not get, or get minimum, pensions at the end of their working lives”, the MEPs said.
While the responsibility for care systems rests with Member States, cooperation at a European level together with an efficient use of EU funds could contribute to the development of quality services, according to Mrs Fitzgerald: “We are calling for all relevant EU financial instruments for lifelong learning, research and infrastructural development to contribute towards the provision of quality care in future. Assessment of the European Structural and Investment Funds with an adequate budget allocation to be invested in care is essential for enhancing equality between women and men.”
“The EPP Group supports all measures and efforts at Member State level that would recognise the value of the unpaid work of carers and believes that this work should be recognised in pension schemes in order to narrow the pension gap between women and men”, said Dennis Radtke MEP.
“Care responsibilities are one of the main reasons for women’s low labour market participation, amounting to a €370 billion annual loss of GDP for Europe. Ensuring quality, affordable and accessible public and private childcare facilities is hugely important. The COVID-19 confinement period highlighted the problem even more with women mostly at the forefront of providing care, despite standard work responsibilities like teleworking”, Mr Radtke added.