Today in the Parliament of Montenegro it is being decided about the Draft law on amendments to the law on social and child protection, by which mothers of three or more children will be provided with the right of lifetime monthly compensation in the amount of 70% of an average net income in Montenegro, realized in the year preceding the year of exercising that right. The condition for women who have three children is 25 years of work experience and 15 years for those who have four or more children.
Seemingly humane solution, designed to somewhat solve two great problems in Montenegro – drastic decrease of natality and social position of mothers, where most of them, due to poor privatization of politics of the authority and long-term collapse of Montenegrin economy, have been left jobless and without possibility to once again get hired and exercise the right to a pension.
Except that the latter issue, position of women on the labor market is not a big problem for Montenegro, because if it was, the state would’ve dealt with it as it should – directly, and not through measures that concern the politics of population, as it is the case with mentioned Draft law.
If the proponents of the law, as well asauthorized parliamentary board and relevant state institutions, have dealt with this problem seriously and not only populistically, first they would provide the research and analysis of effects of these measures both on politics of population and economic position of women, and on the economic situation in general. Serious countries do think about what kind of the effect not giving capable women jobs will have on the economy, because their right to choose is only apparent. The choice between compensation that this Draft offers and bad conditions on the labor market is actually not a choice at all.
If the proponents of the law and authorized institutions have conducted the mentioned research, or at least consulted the experts who deal with the issues of gender equality, they would understand that this type of measures that falls in the category of population politics cannot give the desired effect simply because it is not conducted in the moment when needed, but with 15 i.e. 25 years of delay, when children have already grown, and their mothers can and want to work but have no opportunities. Had anyone seriously paid attention to this topic, firstly they would ask women of childbearing age in which way can the difficult situation on labor market be eased, because of omnipresent discrimination of women, especially of childbearing women and women in labor, they have little or no chance of acquiring 15 i.e. 25 years of work experience and at the same time give birth to three or more children. We believe that women would ask the same thing they asked at the beginning of the last century – 8 hour work day, paid overtime, free weekends and holidays, abatement of illegal employment without contract, insurance and so on. Basically, everything that to women in private sector represents an elusive dream and because of which their children spend days alone at home, due to lack of day care in majority of schools, and kindergartens are crammed to the point where in some groups there are up to 68 children. Instead of acquiring cheap points, the state should deal with the analysis of existing laws and their application and cut out discriminatory measures which on a daily basis affect women in Montenegro, much more than the authorized inspection agencies register. First of all, the state should take seriously the initiative of more than 7000 citizens of Montenegro, who in 2013 signed the petition against amendments to the law on social and child protection where the government benefits have been reduced in the matter of refunding the compensation to women in labor, which they ignored and adopted a disputable decision.
Another thing they should deal with is the analysis of the existing Labor law and suggest abatement of discriminatory measures where maternity leave does not count as a two-year working experience necessary to change from a fixed-term contract to a contract for an indefinite period of time, which is most frequently used legal measure when employers want to get rid of women in labor and unable them the possibility of permanent employment.
Instead of creating general confusion which inevitably appears when economic problems are put in the same basket with measures for increase of natality, a serious country would, if nothing else, study population measures that already exist in other countries which give good results, and not suggest these measures where giving birth is motivated by a solution for existential problems.
Finally, besides the fact that this Draft is obviously blind to many shapes of gender discrimination, and by that directly violating the constitution of Montenegro, Law on gender equality and signed international conventions, it creates division between women, and that is an already tested method to prevent weak emancipatory intents in order to re-traditionalize the role of women in society and yet again confine them with shackles of patriarchy, but this time with seemingly affirmative measures.
Maja Raičević, executive director of NGO Women’s Rights Center
Ljupka Kovačević, coordinator of NGO ANIMA
Ljiljana Raičević, president of NGO Women’s Safe House
Nataša Međedović, executive coordinator of NGO SOS hotline for women and children victims of violence, Nikšić