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United Nations holds expert meeting on COVID-19 and impact on families

The Family focal point of the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs held an Expert Group Meeting on “Families in Development: Focus on Modalities for IYF+30, Parenting Education and the Impact of COVID-19” on 16-18th June.

COFACE Families Europe chaired the session on the impact of COVID-19 on families & parenting around the world, starting with a general statement on some key trends in Europe based on its 8 key recommendations to help families and the economy bounce back. Lockdowns, school closure and teleworking have pushed society into a new reality in the family, working and social spheres of life. The parents who can telework are confined at home, trying to balance work, parenting, care and schooling, are under increasing pressure with further consequences for the mental health of both children and adults. The combination of mental and financial stress, together with uneven sharing of the care between women and men while staying at home is creating tensions. The vulnerabilities of families have now been magnified significantly with the global pandemic bringing all inequalities to the fore. Direct help to families is urgently needed through universally designed measures which support all types of families while targeting the most vulnerable, putting ethical considerations, equal treatment and human rights at the core. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures to boost investment in social and healthcare services. Some governments like Austria, Belgium, CZ, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy or Luxembourg have already voted measures with extraordinary leaves, care vouchers, flexible work solutions, reflecting a mix of measures based on resources, services and flexible working. Many other social and employment policy responses are emerging, as recently highlighted in an OECD brief on COVID-19.

The UN Expert meeting addressed the impact of COVID-19 on families in different world regions, as well parenting education in the context of Sustainable Development Goal 16 and beyond. Parenting and gender were also discussed. No country has achieved equality in unpaid care work. Globally, women spend up to ten times as much time on unpaid care and domestic work (including parenting) as men. What’s more even in western countries where men tend to take up more caregiving and domestic work, twice as many fathers say they rely on their spouse for knowledge and information on parenting as compared to mothers. Achieving equality in unpaid care and domestic work is a matter of justice and gender equality. Involved fathers contribute to gender equality and women’s health.

The COVID-19 impacts on unpaid care work in some countries has arguably led to a re-traditionalisation of care. First data indicate that in the USA, UK and Germany, women spent significantly more time caring for children during the lockdown. Homeschooling is a new domestic task for many families, with the responsibility mostly falling on women. Working mothers spend less time on paid work but more on household work. Even when working mothers earn more, they do more childcare than working fathers. Recommendations were made to reinforce policies relating to closing the gender care gap (paid family leaves for mothers and fathers, care services, expand child/family benefits) and labour market participation (reintegration of unpaid carers in employment, flexible work arrangements, improve workplace hours to allow more time for self-care).

More information here.