The profound and pedagogical work of feminisms throughout history has shown – and shows – the sexual division of labor and how domestic work, socially attributed to women, is one of the bases of capitalism. It allows men to work outside the home, and women to carry out full-time domestic and family activities, without any symbolic or material recognition. The feminist motto in Argentina about this usually says: it’s not love, it’s unpaid work.
Italian activist and writer Silvia Federici is one of the feminists who tends to reinforce this agenda. “There is now talk of essential services and it is never mentioned that housework is the most essential service there is, because every day it reproduces life”, he pointed out, in a lecture on capitalism, reproduction and quarantine, in New York, in the year past.
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Thus, decree 475/2021 was successfully received by feminist movements. The Argentine government determined the equivalence of one year of social security service for each child; two years in the case of adopted or disabled children; and three for women registered in the Universal Child Benefit (AUH), a cash transfer program for economically vulnerable women.
The initiative is part of the Comprehensive Program for Recognition of Contribution Periods for Care Tasks, of the National Administration of Social Security (Anses).
Reproducing life involves many elements. It’s not just cleaning, cooking, taking the kids to the park; it’s all emotional work.
A historical recognition
As detailed in the text of Decree 475/2021, 95% of the people registered with the AUH are women, “crossed by the accumulation of disadvantages due to their gender condition and who also accumulate disadvantages associated with their socioeconomic situation”.
It also highlights that women represent only 39.4% of the employment rate in the country compared to men, according to the last Permanent Household Survey of 2020. The survey also cites the “feminization of poverty” and recognizes productive and reproductive as “a set of actions necessary for the development of daily life and the sustenance of societies”.
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“The difficulties faced by women to enter the registered labor market are directly related to the sexual division of labor, which assigns gender roles to different activities and which, historically, delegated to women the reproductive work and the essential tasks to ensure care , well-being and survival of people in the home, while productive work, which is carried out for remuneration in the market, appears associated with men”, says the text.
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“It is very significant that the State, in such a short time, has incorporated our vocabulary of struggle”, says sociologist Lucía Cavallero, an activist with the feminist collective Ni Una Menos. “It is a very important achievement that the State begins to speak in a language and vocabulary that it first identified itself in the streets, in the spheres of organization,” he added.
The translation of feminist militancy into public policies will allow, in this case, around 150,000 women to retire. As stated by Cavallero, this is a reparatory and symbolic policy.
“The situation is even worse in the case of lesbians, transvestites and transgender people, who, the latter, have a life expectancy of 45 years. Accessing a pension would be, first, being able to live”, points out the sociologist.
National Deputy María Rosa Martínez (Front of All) also referred to the need for more social security policies for historically neglected populations. “We must legislate around social security so that the transvestite and transgender community has the possibility of accessing retirement from the age of 40. We are working in this direction”, pointed out the legislator, in an interview with Rádio Gráfica.
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Mother of three children, Marcela Ruso is 60 years old and lives in the city of Buenos Aires. For only one year of missing contributions, he was unable to start the process of obtaining his retirement. He’s worked his whole life, since finishing high school.
“When they were small, I dedicated myself to my children, and when the youngest turned 17, I went back to work”, says Marcela – who, in fact, never stopped working, between raising her children and taking care of the house. With the support of a lawyer, he now hopes to have recognized the three years that correspond to him for each child and, thus, obtain his retirement.
“Not only do we work in companies, but we are dedicated to our children, and it’s a recognition of the work we’ve done. It’s an excellent measure,” he says.
Gladys Barrionuevo is also old enough to retire. A 61-year-old resident of the city of Mercedes, in the province of Buenos Aires, she hopes to be able to count the corresponding two years for her two children before entering into a moratorium. In a more delicate situation, he had less than 10 years of contribution, as he devoted most of his time to informal activities, including journalism and alternative therapy.
“You realize when it’s time to retire,” he says. “I have a lot of expectations, something that started two years ago, when they re-implemented the moratorium on the retirement of housewives and people who, like me, did not have the necessary contributions”, he comments on the policy of driven moratorium by the governments of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Kirchner, dismantled during the government of Mauricio Macri (2016-2019). President Alberto Fernández has resumed easing the retirement moratoria.
The social recognition of family and domestic work is celebrated by Gladys who, on the other hand, emphasizes that the recognized years are symbolic. “The work is not just one year; there is a lot to be considered in raising a child. Especially because the care of the elderly is also done by women, in general. Including the caregivers themselves, who work in the care of the elderly, too they are women”, she emphasizes.
There is a prejudice when thinking that the woman who stays at home to take care of the children does not work. It’s a job, from another place.
Therefore, in terms of public policy, the measure could be a first step. “Argentina is debating care laws and gender policies,” observes Cavallero, who highlights two factors he considers important in the discussion.
“On the one hand, there must be more public services, with better capacity, which allow for lessening the burden of unpaid tasks. The ideal is not for the State to pay for women to do this task, but to socialize these tasks so that they are not always they are the ones who do it. Another point is that this monetary recognition should be enough to generate economic autonomy. If income is very low, in some way we continue to reproduce the same situation of inequality in relation to women.“
Edition: Rebeca Cavalcante