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Jun
2013
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New Venezuelan Labor Law Provides Pensions to Full-Time Mothers

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In post-Chavez Venezuela, an interesting and progressive attempt at valuing family through legislation has taken shape. Labor law has been modernized to provide pensions for full-time mothers.  

In this vibrant nation best known for its former leader’s antics and its recent shortage of toilet paper, promoting equality has been an integral aspect of a new-millennial identity ushered in by a re-writing of the constitution in 1999. In rewarding women for the work they do raising children, Venezuela is ensuring that those who wish to improve family life have the ability to retire with some sense of economic security. It is an innovative investment in the nation’s future.

Writer Kristina Chew recently weighed the pros and cons of this change in a piece for Care2:

The Chavistas’ new labor law gives “recognition to non-salaried work traditionally done by women,” Thomas Ponniah of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin America Studies and the Department of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University writes in ONTD Political. Ponniah’s explanation of the rationale behind a decision that American women can only dream of (if that) has to do with the efforts of the Chavistas to continue “struggle against inequality” and to work towards economic redistribution.

Gender inequality is certainly one form of ongoing inequality in society. As Ponniah writes, redistributing resources is not sufficient to break down inequality because it ignores the “crucial role that identity and diversity play in society.” That is, who we are plays a huge part in where we are on the social hierarchy. Simply providing those who have historically been economically disenfranchised is not enough to create a truly equal society or, at least, one seeking to be as equal as possible.

Indeed, writes Ponniah, Venezuela’s 1999 Constitution is “explicitly anti-sexist” as it guarantees “women’s right to work, to health services, to social security and pensions.” Even more, by supporting the notion that women who are mothers should receive pensions, it in effect recognizes the “monetary value of housework.”

How this policy will play out in Venezualan society remains to be seen. If it is known that a woman who is a full-time mother will receive a pension, might husbands and families use this law as reason to discourage or even prevent women from working?

Still, I find the paying of pensions to full-time mothers intriguing. Placing a specific monetary value on motherhood challenges the the notion that “being a mother is priceless; it’s the sort of thing that one could never put a price tag on.” While I am glad to know that being a mother is esteemed so valuable, it is often conservative thinkers espousing “traditional family values” and that it is better for women to stay at home in the house who offer such views.

While pensions for full-time mothers is not a concept that would receive broad support in the United States, expanded maternity leave and legal protections for those who temporarily leave the workforce to be with their children would be valuable enhancements to a system that currently does little to close the gender inequality gap. Chew explains:

Currently the U.S. ranks in the same category as Liberia and Papua New Guinea in how little it provides in the way of maternity leave. Venezuela has the world’s third-longest maternity leave, providing mothers with six weeks of pre-natal leave and twenty post-natal. Fathers may receive two weeks of paternal leave. Parents who adopt a child under three years of age can receive the same benefits.

Never thought you’d look to Venezuela for labor law advice? Think again.

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