The Dutch government has launched a new campaign to encourage women between the ages of 30 and 60 to work more hours a week.
The Netherlands has the highest percentage of part-time workers in Europe, with women working an average of 26 hours a week. At the same time, sectors such as healthcare, have a huge shortage of staff.
The campaign, which can be seen online, includes tips for women on how to broach the subject of working more hours both at home and at work. It also includes videos of women talking about how much pleasure their jobs bring them.
The campaign was partly inspired by VVD parliamentarian Judith Tielen, who says the aim is about far more than the division of domestic duties.
‘We are extremely traditional here,’ Tielen told BNR radio. ‘You can be free by working more, by having a career and by being more financially independent, and women are often not aware of this.’
The wage gap between men and women has shrunk slightly in recent years but women still earn an average of 36% less than men largely because of the popularity of part time work.
Many young women start working part time as soon as they have completed their education, Tielen said. ‘In many sectors, such as healthcare and childcare, there are very few full-time jobs. Employers seem to think “oh, it’s a young woman, she will only want to work part time.’
The campaign is also a plea to employers to talk to their female staff and to offer them full-time jobs, she said.
Earlier this month, social affairs minister Karien van Gennip also appealed to women to work more hours.
‘I think it’s important that everyone can make a personal choice,’ the minister said. ‘If a mother wants to work seven days a week, it is fine by me. And if mothers want to be a full time mum, that is also okay. As long as we realise what it means for your pension and financial position.’
However, Aar Maaike, from the FNV trade union federation told NPO radio that society would miss it enormously if women did not deal with unpaid domestic tasks. The work women do – volunteering, caring for children and elderly relatives – is often unseen, she said.
Nevertheless, the idea that women should spend most time with the children is entrenched in Dutch society.
According to figures from national statistics agency CBS, while four in 10 couples with young children say they want to share parenting, only one in 10 couples actually manage it.
At the same time, 35% of men think women are more suited to raising small children than men, a belief shared by just 16% of young mothers themselves. And some 80% of the population in general think mothers with children under the age of four should work no more than 28 hours a week.
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