Question 1 – What is the role of Assindatcolf in Italy?
This year ASSINDATCOLF will mark 35 years of existence, and since its very beginning, the association provided valuable support to families in the area of work-life balance. Our efforts in Italy, especially over the last five years, were aimed in that exact direction: to make paid domestic help accessible to all those who need it. This is why we continually renew our request to the Government to make tax deductible a part, more or less important, of the cost sustained by families for domestic help in housekeeping, babysitting and personal caring. Up to now, this request is unfortunately still waiting for an answer.
Question 2 – How and why is your organization investing at European level?
The reason lies in the lack of interest and attention given by the Italian Government and Parliament to our action. In Europe, we found different partners, some important others less. All recognize the central social function of domestic work, for family employers as well as for the workers employed in this sector, which are mostly female.
EFFE, the European federation regrouping us all, as a single voice, is much forceful and since it represents the demands of an entire sector, is likely to be heard better. This is why we are putting a lot of effort into including different characteristics and possible solutions into the White Pater on Domestic Work in Europe, which is now ready. Will these be implemented? We don’t know. What we do know is that they are real indications, produced by experts in this field. I think that they can only give interesting results.
A second, equally important reason lies in the resources that the European Union manages to extend to different projects. This enables us to carry out research and develop increasingly advanced domestic work management models. Projects that have been approved, in progress or completed all confirm this conviction. I mention a few: PRODOME, CARER+, Ad-PHS and others are under evaluation. Thanks to these projects, we have become more visible in Italy and in Europe.
Question 3 – What do you think of the directive on work-life balance, currently at the center of inter-institutional negotiations?
In today’s chaotic and complex world, due to the constant evolution of lifestyles, technologies and, why not, wealth, there is a strong need to rethink private life models, and consequently, the relationship between individuals and their socio-economic activities.
It is true that finding a new equilibrium is not an easy process. Many priorities are contrasting, group organization clashes with individual organization and the legislative framework varies from State to State. Yet, among all these problems there are great hopes.
This is why I believe that domestic work is a highly flexible tool for achieving a more efficient work-life balance management. In fact, the core of the pending directive, points to two essential elements: retribution and leaves. It is easy to grasp the importance of these two regulatory issues, unfortunately never flexible enough to be convenient for the parties involved.
In fact, in terms of communication and programming, it is not easy to deal with intermittent or unexpected leaves or indemnities, and it is very different from monitoring budgets for states or productivity and management for companies. We all would like to have enough places for all in preschool, kindergarten and primary school eventually opened 24/24 7/7 or to have homes or long-term care units for the elderly, the disabled or the non self-sufficient always available for unforeseen and immediate admittance. Unfortunately, things aren’t this way, and we probably will never find the necessary resources to make it happen.
Furthermore, there are not only self-sufficiency problems in a life-span from birth to the elderly age. Even the issues of the exclusion of women from work, their fewer career opportunities, and the gender gap are also part of the work-life balance problem. With the same unpredictability elements and costs connected to non self-sufficiency.
This is why I firmly believe that the directive I mentioned should include the theme of how to support family employers. Baby sitters, housekeepers and personal carers represent a huge number of female workers, often paid in black or gray, directly connected to families. They are the true mechanism of flexibility by which families manage to cope with everyday life, without sacrificing their work or their private life. They are mostly a woman’s aid. An aid for the workers as well as for the employers. An aid that can also become the engine of a closed or frozen social elevator almost always due to the lack of a work-life balance.
This is why we must strongly urge member states and companies to invest in family welfare. We must offer fiscal and contributive support. We must to see to the professionalization of domestic work, which means investing on implementing qualification, training and certification processes for domestic workers. These tools would lead to a more flexible time management and an improved work-life balance, to creating occupation and mostly to bring out millions of underground workers within the European Union, mostly female immigrants.
I have been told that this is a “racist” bias because the weaker social classes are identified as the hub of domestic work. I admit to this problem in part because such discrimination exists today. But to those who argue that ghettos cannot be specifically regulated, I reply that it is much worse to leave things as they are, and that the kind of support that we are proposing would greatly benefit both family employers and workers.
If and when I will be shown a real solution for solving work-life balance issues that focuses primarily on submerged employment, I will be the first to welcome it. Today, however, to deny the importance of the issue and to chose not to include it in the directive (at least in embryo), means to opt for immobility and avoid facing the concrete, daily dimension of the problem.