Why this story matters:
"I hope you have a nice house in the countryside, full of toys," wrote a mother from Upper Austria in a letter to the governor Thomas Stelzer (from the Austrian People's Party - ÖVP). "Because I'll take your role as a statesman very seriously and hand over my daughter to you, for lack of alternatives." This letter, posted on Facebook, caused a stir.
It is a response to the plans of ÖVP and FPÖ to introduce fees for afternoon care in the kindergartens of Upper Austria. Consequently, from February, low-income parents will most likely withdraw their children from kindergartens in the afternoons. Who will stay home with them?
Yes, you figured it out. Women often have little choice -- the majority of them cannot take up full-time jobs or work at all, if there is no free kindergarten available. In Austria, all-day care facilities for four-year-olds and younger children are scarce. More than a quarter of kindergartens close before 2pm, and far less than a third of all Austrian children have access to nurseries.
In some states, the compatibility of family and work is not a political priority. Especially in rural areas, the conservative image of women and mothers is still a major obstacle on the path to gender equality. This is also the case in Upper Austria
In her comment, Petra Stuiber writes in Der Standard:
"This is about something else: the political enforcement of an archaic vision of society. The man is the breadwinner. The wife should only work part-time, if at all, and be there for the children. According to our current leaders, enforcing this would solve all of Austria's educational and social problems imposed by full-time childcare in one go.”
Politicians seem to ignore the long-term consequences of the lack of state child care, like old-age poverty of women who could not work long enough to collect a sufficient pension.
Petra Stuiber draws attention to another key point. Full-time free childcare offers more opportunities for integration, especially for the children of migrants.
Clearly such issues are low priority for the ÖVP and FPÖ.
Details from the story:
- In Austria, all-day care facilities for four-year-olds and younger children are scarce. More than a quarter of kindergartens close before 2pm, and far less than a third of all Austrian children have access to nurseries.
- The majority of women cannot take up full-time jobs or work at all, if there is no free kindergarten available.
- The state government in Upper Austria, a federal state of Austria, has abolished the non-contributory afternoon care of children. A mother from Upper Austria has written an open letter to the governor and posted it on Facebook. It has inspired a heated debate on kindergartens in Austria.