Today, women occupy 65% of the paid workforce, but still perform 66% of the unpaid caring work in Australia. Despite these victories, there is something fundamentally wrong with this system. Capitalism can live with women in the workforce just as long as we know our place and continue to accept the double standard and the double burden.
Imagine if quality child-care was free, there was free health, dental and hospital care for all, community restaurants provided cheap and nutritious meals, education was free and domestic chores were paid for by the state. Life for families, and especially women, would be very different. But this sort of arrangement would mean that a proportion of the profits currently pocketed by the ruling class would have to be spent on providing such services.
Neoliberalism is moving society in the exact opposite direction to this vision. We are seeing attacks on welfare, the dismantling of universal health and free education. This is putting huge strain on families and, by extension, on women. We cannot take the gains that working women have won for granted. But they are limited and temporary — just look at the attacks on penalty rates, on the right to organise in a union, the fight for equal pay.