Women, Work & Childcare

This International Womens’ Day also coincided with the first day Robbie’s been able to go to daycare in a fortnight, thanks to two bouts of illness (the first a cold, the second gastro).

As I drove away from daycare this morning, after seeing him settle back in quickly with the educators he’s formed such a strong bond with, I felt an enormous sense of relief and freedom.

Don’t get me wrong; I love spending time with my son. It was fun to spend such a large chunk of the last two weeks with him. (OK, not the parts when he vomited and pooed all over me, obviously, but the other parts where we played in the park, drew in our driveway with chalk, read lots of stories, and chased the neighbours’ cat around (sorry, Duncan!)).

But the sense of freedom rushed in today because I finally have a chance to focus solely on my work again, which of course I also love and is incredibly important to me (and hopefully, as a climate campaigner, to the world too).

The past fortnight I’ve been snatching tiny bits of time to work in the morning before Robbie woke up, while he napped, at night after he was asleep, or in blocks of time when other people were looking after him. Luckily, Simon is a very hands-on dad and we’re pretty much equal in the time we spend with Robbie, so it’s not like all my work had to grind to a halt.

But today, knowing that I can finally focus on my work all day, without having to worry about Robbie at all, is so liberating. I know he is having a great time at daycare, learning lots, and being looked after by a wonderful team of women who put their heart and souls into their jobs.

Which brings me to the topic of today’s post: the women that enable me to have this freedom to work – a hard-won freedom that our feminist forebears fought for – are being paid much, much less than what their work is worth.

An extract from a Sydney Morning Herald article this week:

Qualified early childhood educators earn as little as $20.61 an hour, about half the national average wage and significantly less than workers in male-dominated professions with comparable skills and qualifications. Childcare union United Voice has a long-running wage case in the Fair Work Commission, arguing that the 97 per cent female workforce is under-paid for working in a “pink collar” sector. Figures from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency show the national gender pay gap is 16.2 per cent, with female-dominated industries attracting lower wages than male-dominated industries. A metal fitter and machinist with a certificate III qualification earns $37.89 per hour, for example, compared with the $20.61 earned by the certificate III qualified educator.

This afternoon, childcare educators are striking (there is still a skeleton staff for the kids of parents who are unable to pick them up). As a parent, I fully support the strike and I fully support paying childcare educators more.

My wish for International Womens’ Day is for you, reading this post, to sign the petition at the Big Steps campaign being run by United Voice.


Robbie: 17 months now!

About annastarrrose

Author & environmentalist
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