Bridging the gap: valuing care professions and advancing gender equality

care assistant helping senior man©canstockphoto by Bialasiewicz

(17 May 2023) The COVID-19 pandemic exposed a striking paradox in the care sector, where predominantly female professionals are entrusted with crucial responsibilities but receive little recognition and low salaries. These care professions, which are essential for promoting well-being across all age groups and levels of vulnerability, are deeply entrenched in gender inequality. Recently published research has shed light on the urgent need for investment, revaluation of these professions and the pursuit of gender equality.

This report from CGT France highlights the magnitude of social needs in the care and social connection sector, estimating job creation requirements in France ranging from 330,500 to 1.1 million. The necessary investment to create these jobs and revalue salaries amounts to nearly 80 billion euros, approximately 3.2% of GDP. While the figure may seem substantial, it is important to note that public subsidies to businesses already surpass the estimated needs for the sector. Additionally, the report raises concerns about the growing privatization of care services, emphasizing disparities in wages and working conditions between for-profit and non-profit sectors.

Based on a comprehensive online consultation with 7,000 professionals in care, the research uncovers the undervaluation and invisibility of these professions. Regardless of their specific occupation, respondents highlighted the importance of theoretical and technical knowledge while expressing frustration with job descriptions that fail to capture the true complexity of their work. They face the demanding task of juggling multiple responsibilities within limited time, experiencing emotional and physical strain.

Comparisons between care professions and predominantly male-dominated jobs of similar classification or remuneration levels revealed significant wage gaps. For example, midwives - despite sharing comparable responsibilities and requirements with hospital engineers - faced disparities in recruitment procedures, career progression, remuneration, and working conditions. Social services assistants and nursing assistants also experienced wage discrepancies and limited career advancement opportunities compared to their male counterparts in technical fields. The study exposes the gender bias ingrained within the system and highlights the need for corrective action.

This research underscores the urgency to invest in care professions to achieve gender equality. The findings can empower professionals to advocate for change by demanding salary revaluation and recognition proportional with their expertise and responsibilities. The report suggests that affected professionals may consider taking legal action, such as class-action lawsuits, to address the discrimination they face.

The pursuit of gender equality in the care sector requires comprehensive investment and the revaluation of salaries to align with the professional requirements of care and relational professions. This research serves as a call to action, urging policymakers, stakeholders, and professionals to work together to address the challenges faced by these invaluable yet undervalued professionals. By prioritising care and promoting gender equality, we can build a more equitable and inclusive society for all.

Read the full report here (in French). Read the summary here (in French).