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  • Marie

Switzerland ranks poorly in the latest UNICEF study

On Friday 14 June, women in Switzerland took the streets to request stronger rights, gender equality and fairness of salary at work: this was the yearly Frauenstreik ("women strike") which seemed to capture a lot more attention in international media in 2019.

The study compares and ranks countries for their various policies and actions in terms of maternity leave, paid leave available to mothers, paternity leave, paid leave reserved for fathers, parental leave and childcare enrolment. Data were collected in 2019, 2016 (2014 for some indicators in Switzerland); it is highly probable however that within such a short political time range, the picture raised in the report did not change dramatically until today.

And surprisingly enough Switzerland ranks last out of the 31 countries which submitted a complete set of information around 4 specific indicators:

  • duration of paid leave available to mothers;

  • duration of paid leave reserved specifically for fathers;

  • the share of children below the age of three in childcare centres; and

  • the share of children between the age of three and compulsory school age attending preschool or childcare centres.

On the other hand, Switzerland ranks 3rd out of 20 countries on a comparison covering the rate of breastfeeding at six and 12 months.

As conclusion, the report provides a set of recommendations for all countries to improve their family-friendly policies, with a focus on both maternity AND paternity leave where it lacks, the possibility for "all children to access high-quality, age-appropriate, affordable and accessible childcare centres irrespective of their personal or family circumstances", access for mothers to high-quality breastfeeding support, and the need for good data quality and data collection on these indicators to further compare and benchmark countries, identify gaps and room for improvement.

Report: Are the world’s richest countries family friendly? Policy in the OECD and EU, by Yekaterina Chzhen, Anna Gromada and Gwyther Rees

Pics and graphs: UNICEF


My personal reflexion

On the day of the Frauenstreik, I actually did not stop working. We did receive information from the management about the event and how the organization has been working on gender equality internally. We even received suggestions on how we can participate individually to the event (despite being advised not to call it a "strike" per se)...and I chose not to participate actively.

First of all, I simply forgot.

At the times when I could have gone out and joined demonstrations, I was absorbed on a project that I am very proud of working on. This is the luck to have found a meaningful job I care for and I am very grateful that I get to do what I want and what I care for.

As I see my belly getting bigger, I am also pretty grateful for the benefits I am entitled to here in Switzerland, compared to what I got while working in the UAE:

100%-paid 4 months maternity leave with no hit on my leave days, with the safety to get my job back afterwards vs. 45 calendar days that I had to complement with leave days and unpaid leave.

With time, I had been surprised to see many considering 45 calendar days maternity leave good enough, nor questionning the almost non-existing paternity leave my husband was entitled to. As for breastfeeding, the government would mandate 2 x 30 mn break to go back to my kid, which ended up pumping in a dusty closet as there was no other possible option.

Well, I suppose that breastfeeding over a longer period of time, like the Swiss statistics show, is much easier to manage if you do not work and if your children are not enrolled in school part- or full-time (but this is my own interpretation of the results, based on a lot of personal observations and a possible high amount of misconceptions, too).

Going back to the Frauenstreik, I did have some discussions with colleagues about my understanding of the event. Surprisingly / but yet not totally surprising either, I feel that the report confirms my first impressions and complaints about being a working mother in Switzerland.

We talked about the Swiss, old-fashion thinking that paternity leave is not especially necessary (I wrote about it here) and that mothers can manage on their own.

We talked about the costs or private daycare, the only option that we have at the moment, for me to be able to work almost full-time.

We talked about the challenge we will face when we sign our son up to public school, with no certainty whatsoever he will get a space for lunch and afternoon activities because we need him to be enrolled 4 days. We talked about the new routines we will need to build and the nanny we might have to hire to bridge the gaps between end-of-school hours and working hours.

We talked about our social, local integration in the region, which is mostly comprised of international parents from the daycare, who like us are both working parents and would want the kids to learn more than Swiss-german as a main language.

So yes, we talked a lot, and apart from changing home or changing job, I did not find a solution that would allow me to be fulfilled both as a mum and as a professional. And to me gender equality is not being offered a free zumba trial at work, or wearing a purple logo on my signature block, it goes far beyond that.

Until this magical solution is found is found, I'll keep on waking up a little earlier to organize my day and do what I can so that the mental charge is not eating my strengths; i'll focus 100% in the office, because I can and because I love it; I'll tell the Kita they need to call my husband if something happens, not me for the only reason that I am the mum; I will keep on supporting other working and non-working mums, just because there is a large spectrum of things that non-parents just cannot understand, and that many parents seem to have forgotten.

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