International Women’s Day 2008 – Sweden’s right-wing government attacks women: Neo-liberal policies want to turn back the clock

Neo-liberal policies want to turn back the clock

Tax deductions for employing maids, subsidies for homecare of children, attacks on unemployed and sick are part of the rightwing government’s pro-boss and anti-worker- and anti-women politics in Sweden. The government wants to turn back the clock before the time of social reforms that meant big steps towards for the equality in the 20th century.

The homecare subsidy is a contribution of €350-450 per month for those who stay home with their children instead of using public childcare. The government wants to force women back to the stoves. Women already have the biggest responsibility for their children and are also going to be the ones to get the subsidy.

Women today make 82 per cent of men’s wages in Sweden, which means that the family looses more money if the man stays at home than if the woman does. In Norway and Finland who have a similar subsidy, 96 per cent and 95 per cent respectively of the ones who get the subsidy are women. The homecare subsidy will be used as an excuse to make cuts in the public provision of childcare.

Unemployment benefit has been cut to 70 per cent of earnings after 200 days and to 56 per cent after 300 days. After that, the unemployed have to accept any job even if the wage is less than the unemployment benefit.

There are two purposes to the attacks on the unemployed – to open the way for a low wage market with jobs that pay less than € 1,050 a month and also to weaken the unions that up to now have administrated the unemployment benefit.

The terms for the benefit have changed; to get it you now have to have been working for 80 hours a month compared to 70 hours earlier. This hits women harder since they more often have part time jobs and also more often stay at home with a sick child. For a part time worker, one sick day can mean not reaching 80 hours a month.

Low paid jobs

Maid tax deduction is one way of creating new low paid jobs. They can generate a tax deduction up to € 5,263 a year. It is not workers – for example the maids themselves – who can afford this deduction but the ones who can already afford a maid. The government wants to re-establish the old times with maids having insecure employment in the employer’s home.

Rich families in big houses are encouraged to pay themselves out of doing any dishwashing and cleaning. Rich women get freed from housework because poor women do it for them.

This deduction is reckoned to cost the state over € 136 million. If this money were given to the public sector, that could pay for 4,000 new nurses in health care.

Another attacked area is the health insurance that was decreased from 80 per cent of earnings to 77.6 per cent because it covers last year’s wages and not at the coming year’s wages which were increased in the negations of 2007. After one year it is cut by a further five per cent.

The politicians have been instructed as to how long you can get sick pay for every illness. People that suffering from extension are burned out do not count for sick pay in that chart. A person with migraine, gallstones or HIV does not get sick pay either, while heart attack and lumbago is going to lead to a lot shorter time off.

The reason that the number of people who are on sick leave is increasing is neo liberal policies with rationalisations, which means higher stress and pressure at work. Especially in the public sector with cuts in health-, elderly- and child care, where the majority of employees are women. That is also shown in the statistic that the majority of those sick listed as sick are women.

Insecure, short-time jobs are a problem that more and more are facing, especially young women workers. Every fifth woman has a temporary job compared with every seventh man. But the right wing Swedish government does not think that is enough. That is why they have increased the period of temporary employment from 12 to 24 months.

The attacks all together are making it worse for women on the labour market. It is a big blow against women’s rights in all areas.

When women strengthened their position on the labour market, it gave strength to the struggle for women’s rights. But an opposite development is opening the way for reactionary ideas and women’s oppression elsewhere, like objectifying women In the media and advertisement and violence against women. That is why everyone who wants to stop the oppression of women needs to fight against the right wing politics now.

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March 2008