If women made money ironing shirts, the world would look very different | She says

columnDebby Gerritsen examines love, lust and life questions every Wednesday.

If it is up to the Social and Cultural Planning Office (SCP), there is a solution for the screaming staff shortage in our country: women simply have to work more. Because the Netherlands has been a frontrunner in Europe for years when it comes to part-time jobs among women – no less than 75 percent of Dutch women work part-time or even less.

And: ‘once part-time, always part-time’, according to new research by the SCP. Even when the children are ‘old enough’, mothers do not feel the urge to work more hours. And that must come to an end, they think in The Hague. The part-time princess needs to get her frail yoga ass kicked and work full-time. And it even swings bonuses.

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Here we go again with that pointing finger, I thought this morning when I read about this research. It is a well-known reflex to point to part-time working women when looking at issues such as the pay gap, the frugal number of women at the top of the corporate world or now: the shortage of personnel in the labor market. The idea here is always: women just have to do their best and work more hours. Come on, get to work!


An image is created of spoiled part-time princesses meditating on yoga mats when not at work

What always amazes me in this discussion is that we seem to have a collective blind spot for all the unpaid work these part-time working women do. Critics have created an inaccurate image of spoiled part-time princesses meditating on yoga mats when not at work. While we know that they work no fewer hours than men, but they mainly do their work unpaid. If women made money ironing shirts or making sandwiches, the world would be a very different place.

Yet we are blind to the idea that women have to work their way up to the ‘masculine’ full-time norm, when – I think – it makes much more sense to talk about a better division of paid and unpaid work. Because if we all work full-time, who will take care of the groceries, the children (who leave home later and later) and our elderly?

No, we will not solve the enormous staff shortage in our country by scapegoating part-time working women and by throwing them with ‘full-time bonuses’. In doing so, we are actually creating a new problem. Moreover, it is not fair to leave the solution to the shortage on the labor market with the employees in the Netherlands, as if we don’t feel like working. We’re fine with that, but work must pay off.

It is up to employers and government to ensure that working becomes attractive again. With higher salaries, better working conditions and… free childcare. Believe me, we won’t be at the top of the part-time list in Europe next year.

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