The executive director of Fundación Emplea, Jorge Gaju, gives a clear picture of how the pandemic further damaged the labor exclusion of the country's most vulnerable women, even damaging the precarious subsistence livelihoods with which they support themselves and their children.
Today in Chile almost 800 thousand people are not working. They are the so-called "potential inactive", those who, having the talent, the ability and the need, do not manage to overcome by themselves the entry barriers that allow access to the labor market. And they resign themselves to not looking for work. And the most unfair and unfortunate thing is that 65% percent of these 1.5 million potential inactive people are women.
This is explained, in the first place, because before the pandemic and its consequences on employment, they were already in a situation of historical labor disadvantage. Currently, 47% of women participate in the labor market versus 69% of men. And, secondly, because they have always participated in sectors of the economy that have been hard hit by COVID-19, such as domestic service, commerce, tourism and gastronomy, where, in addition, due to the greater physical proximity involved, the risk of contagion is much greater.
As an old and wise feminist recently told me, "looking for some advantage to the impact of the pandemic, let's say that it made visible the tremendous role that women play in the functioning of the economy, although it has not yet translated into anything concrete, except for a growing demand for these care tasks to be paid".
Women do 2.5 times more domestic work than men, which prevents or hinders them from accessing paid employment and/or forces them to combine paid employment with unpaid work. "Women's unpaid work supports the need for care that sustains families, supports economies and often fills gaps in social services, yet it is rarely recognized as work," states a UN Women document.
Another unfortunate aspect of the pandemic is that there is a wide gap that prevents the connection between those seeking work and the companies that need workers. Today, as never before, as a result of the pandemic, there is a need for paid personnel capable of managing small budgets, educating and caring for minors and the elderly, cooking, among other tasks in which housewives carry out, but it is difficult to bring together those who need this service with those who can perform it.
We see this a lot at Fundación Emplea: despite their talent, many women who want to work do not know how to enter the formal labor market, they do not know how to overcome such basic obstacles as how to prepare a résumé, meet schedules, or know who to contact. These women, who are often heads of household, lack contact networks to find formal jobs and do not really know where to start. There is also a strong inertia of informality, which means that people with precarious jobs have much less chance of getting "decent" jobs.
And finally, there is learned hopelessness, which is the lack of growth expectations that poor women feel, accustomed to being discriminated against because of the community where they live, how they speak, how they dress or because they are missing a tooth, despite having all the ability and desire to work.
In Women's Month, with a government that starts full of pro-women symbols, women's employment must be a priority and for this Fundación Emplea believes that the State must advance in giving a more important role to labor intermediation, turning it into a relevant public policy that complements the current training system. As a candidate repeated in a few seconds in a past election campaign, the demand is: work, work, work with a focus on them, the women.