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A Europe that cares is a Europe that guarantees universal access to care services and values care work as real work!


08 Jul 2022


Health & Consumers

In the autumn, the European Commission is expected to finally present its long-awaited European care strategy. Anticipating this communication, the Socialists and Democrats call on the Commission to be as ambitious as possible, so that this strategy will be a solid first step, laying foundations for a European Care Deal encompassing policies, legislative proposals and public investment. We must guarantee universal, equal and effective access to quality integrated care and support services for all people in need, from early childhood to older age care, and we finally must recognise and value care as real work and the backbone of our economy and society. In particular, we need a new legal framework to create quality jobs and improve working conditions, for both formal and informal carers, who are still predominantly women. We must acknowledge, reduce and equally distribute unpaid care and housework between men and women.

The S&Ds regret to see that some conservative members of the European Parliament today voted against universal access to care services or against public investments to improve the situation in the care sectors for both paid and unpaid care providers, as well as care recipients. Nevertheless we secured strong support for the progressive text*.

Milan Brglez, the S&D MEP and the European Parliament’s co-rapporteur on care, said:

“The Covid pandemic opened our eyes: the care sector needs public support and investment! Today care work remains undervalued, underpaid and unequally distributed. Besides, unpaid informal care and housework, which are still predominantly perceived as ‘women’s work’ and not recognised as ‘real work’, perpetuate gender stereotypes and existing inequalities.

“Europe must do better! We need to correct the huge mistake of cuts in the care sector during the financial crisis. We also missed the opportunity to make investment in public care a mandatory part of EU recovery and resilience efforts.  Without investment in quality public care, accessible to everyone from early childhood into old age, it will not be possible to break the vicious circle of dependence on informal caregivers, who are predominantly women. Inadequate and unaffordable services force women back to work in the domestic sphere, into economic dependence and social exclusion.

“It is time to recognise that caring for others is not just the noble expression of intergenerational solidarity. It is also a productive sector, but most importantly, it is a basic right and a public good that needs support and investment!  The implementation of this right is fundamentally dependent on having a sufficient number of well-trained, adequately paid and valued staff, with decent working conditions, as well as on providing adequate support for informal carers. 

“The Commission has a strong ally in us for legislative action, programmes and investment at the EU level, which will pave the way for a transition towards the gender-transformative care economy that recognises care as a right and values it as the backbone of our society.”  

S&D MEP, and negotiator on care in the women’s rights and gender equality committee Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques added:

“All of us, at least once in our lives will care for or be cared for by someone. It is time we recognised that care work is crucial for the well-being of the society in which we live. It is well known that women provide the vast majority of caregiving tasks, often as informal workers. It is estimated that women spend, on average, 3.2 times more hours than men on unpaid caregiving duties, such as taking care of children. As a result, in the European Union, around 7.7 million women are out of the labour market due to care responsibilities, compared to only 450,000 men.

“Our challenge is how to change this paradigm, which is also cultural. We need to start with education, showing boys that caring for others is not just a woman's thing. We must also value care work, which has to mean fair remuneration. Portugal’s Informal Caregiver Statute can serve as a good example. It guarantees a support allowance, resting hours and access to training. Everybody will benefit if we invest in a better European care sector.”

*Note for editors:

The priorities that the S&Ds secured in the report voted today ahead of the European Commission’s communication on care include:

  • an ambitious European care strategy resulting in a strong European care deal;
  • universal and equal access to quality care services from early childhood to older age;
  • a genuine choice of care services responding to the individual needs of people receiving care and support, and their families;
  • a legal framework promoting quality jobs and decent working conditions for carers, both formal and informal;
  • a reduction and equal distribution of unpaid care and housework between men and women.




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