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Venezuela to Pay Pensions to Full-Time Mothers

Venezuela to Pay Pensions to Full-Time Mothers

I can’t think of any woman who’s a mother who wouldn’t respond in the affirmative to the question “is motherhood a full-time job?” There are certainly women who are able to be full-time mothers, but many, (myself included) must work. Many of us (myself also included) like working and, for all the demands of juggling a career and caring for children, we are glad to do it. But it is true, one does appreciate knowing that one’s efforts to do not one but two jobs are acknowledged.

Venezuela, a country that has been making the news for a shortage of toilet paper, is providing mothers with a benefit quite unheard of (certainly in the U.S.). Under the country’s new labor law, full-time mothers will be able to collect a pension.

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.

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.

What can I say? When is the U.S. going to wake up and smell the coffee some mothers (myself) drink too much of as we go about our full-time work as mothers, teachers, lawyers and so much more?

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156 comments

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5:09PM PST on Dec 15, 2013

The definition of work is restricted to 'economic activities' that leads to data on labour force showing that women constitute less than 1/2 of the world's labour force. Sine women's work in the household is unpaid, therefore seen as 'Not work' statistics would show such info.
I support this policy, it's about time women's work becomes visible..

4:13PM PDT on Sep 29, 2013

I love the idea of this. So often women's work (household work like cleaning and raising a family) is demeaned and devalued because men generally only see money flowing into the bank account. More power to Venezuela, hope it works out well for them!

7:31PM PDT on Jun 15, 2013

No one is asking the women to quit their jobs so I don't see a problem with this at all! How many have wished they could just be home with the kids until they were in school? Options are being offered, without taking away.

1:57PM PDT on Jun 6, 2013

sounds like a trick to me

5:07PM PDT on Jun 4, 2013

This sounds great. But, will they be offering the pension to male homemakers as well? If not, then it's just another sexist law, which will encourage women to stay home and men to work outside the home whether or not that's what's right for the individual families.

12:39PM PDT on Jun 4, 2013

Margaret P.

Thank you for your comment.

I agree with you 100 %.

3:59AM PDT on May 31, 2013

@Allie Y: When I thought of equality back in the early 70s, I never once considered that to mean I would have to deny everything that is traditionally or biologically feminine. That's a perpetuation of the same degrading attitudes we sought to eliminate back then (right along with your insulting comment about women "sitting at home"). What's wrong with being a woman in a maternal role? Why is it so distasteful to employers, and why do even many women now cringe at the thought of being identified as mothers first? We haven't come a long way to indulge in self-deprecation, nor to be treated as men, but to have our unique gender roles respected in the same way and to the same degree as our male counterparts' - who have yet to demonstrate, collectively, the ability to juggle work and the role of primary caregiving.

3:31AM PDT on May 31, 2013

@Margaret P: As for criminals, we need mothers who can focus on averting very early indicators of problem behavior resulting from poor attachment. Did you know that problematic bonding in the early months can alter the chemistry of the developing brain? Take a look at the biographies of some notorious killers and see how many you can find that did not have a failed attachment with his/her mother. You might be surprised. I know, the bios themselves are not science, but they should cause a few behavioral scientists to take pause and consider more research. In many European countries, "education" is synonymous with "upbringing" so in that sense, education is best accomplished in the early years by meaningful and frequent interaction with a child's primary caregiver, usually mother. If this can't work in our economy, changes are overdue.

10:41PM PDT on May 30, 2013

Venezuela is not America. The government works on a different system and therefore paying someone who does not contribute to the economy does not work in America except for the money paid to illegals and criminals and foreign aid.. Economically it does not work within our government as there is not enough money to support everyone unless we cut out some useless spending like foreign aid to countries that are our enemies and the money is not seen by those who need it. As for the illegals - pack them up and send them home. They are criminals. As for criminals we need better laws and more education for those that need it before it is too late.

5:04PM PDT on May 30, 2013

I have been a SAHM and now that I am 65 have no SS benefits. I have raised 4 children who pay taxes and a husband who is still too young to retire. I can't get any Medicare without paying more than we can afford monthly. I have sacrificed and dedicated myself to my family, paid taxes through my husbands wages and can't get any financial benefits of my own. There should be some compensation for us also!

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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