The Eurocadres blog
Childcare crisis grips Belgian workers
With soaring energy costs adding to the cost-of-living crisis, Belgian workers now face another issue: huge pressure within the childcare sector.
This is to be expected considering the treatment of childcare workers, with too high a workload, unequal pay, lack of social recognition and other factors all contributing to the existing labour shortages. Trade Union ACV Puls have been active in improving the situation workers are facing, with a number of initiatives seeking to alleviate the conditions workers face. In Flanders, 1 child-minder taking care of 9 toddlers is, unfortunately, no longer the exception, with child-minders often exclusively performing caring tasks.
“We are working on a future project on childcare. The agency Growing Up is developing a participatory strategic plan in cooperation with the workforce. This will also include a financial plan”, outlines ACV Puls trade unionists and spokesperson for the childcare sector, Nathalie Winters. “The next government will continue working on the project providing necessary resources. We will participate in the discussions and oversee the implementation of the plans, which will focus on the workforce in childcare and on the pedagogical, social and economic function. Our childcare sector plan will address all these issues, looking for equal pay for equal work, reduced workload thanks to a ratio of 1 to 5 and a correct employee status for child-minders at home.
ACV regularly exerts influence on the Flemish government: by raising questions on certain matters and putting them in the spotlight. We are also developing a strategic action plan together with our members, with which we already achieved great results in 2022. A great motivation to continue in the same vein in 2023.
As a trade union, we want to force society and politicians to make different policy decisions. Investing in childcare is taking care of tomorrow’s future. High-quality childcare offers parents the possibility to confidently go to work and earn an income, which will in turn ensure more prosperity and hopefully also more welfare”.
This reality can be felt throughout Belgium, with Eurocadres Executive Committee member Sandra Vercammen outlining in a piece for De Standaard newspaper that “after the climate actions, it is time for the ‘our children action’.
"I call on all parents to take their children with them to work on Wednesdays from now on"
I fear for what awaits my own children. In disbelief, I note that day-care centres and after-school care facilities are struggling. I read about nurseries having to close their doors, understaffing, underfunding and high workload. I look in amazement at the budgetary measures taken by this government, which cut back on the time-credit system to care for family members.
As of next year, the requirements for a young father or mother to take time credit to care for their children will become much stricter. For those who work part-time, in practice mostly women, it will become impossible to combine part-time filial leave and part-time employment. These measures are completely at odds with the recent European directive on work-life balance, which preserves existing rights and builds upon them with improved and new rights for both men and women.
In disbelief and disappointment, I fear a real step backwards for my children and all young families. But I am also combative. Our time is precious, and we must not allow it to be taken away from us. We had not yet reached all our goals, and we experience today that little progress we have made can quickly be undone. I call on all parents to take their children with them to work on Wednesdays from now on”.
You can find out more about the P&M work of ACV here.
Eurocadres Executive Committee member