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Spain's grandparents take on the bulk of childcare and want more support for parents
GRANDPARENTS in Spain have called for the government to 'implement measures' so that the bulk of childcare does not fall on them when their own children have to go to work.
The plea has come from the Democratic Union of Pensioners (UDP) and from the Family Associations Union (UNAF), with the latter's key researcher Carmen Sánchez Moro warning that obligation is taking the pleasure out of having grandchildren – and out of life.
She says one in four grandparents spends at least seven hours every day caring for their grandchildren, and of these, 82% say if the kids' parents were able to spend more time on looking after them, the burden on the elder relatives would be reduced.
“Being a grandparent is one of the most gratifying and rewarding human experiences,” Sra Moro says, “but it should never become an obligation.
“This takes the pleasure away from having grandchildren and prevents pensioners from being able to enjoy an active and healthy retirement, as well as limiting their independence and social lives.”
She also stressed that, partly due to the generation difference and the fact that this was considered 'the norm' when today's grandparents were caring for their own children, it tends to be women who take on the bulk of grandchildren-sitting.
“Grandmothers feel this responsibility more, and are more likely to become child-carers reluctantly,” says Sra Moro.
“They feel they have to comply with society's expectations and to do the best by their children, so they cannot refuse.
“Grandfathers, however, are more likely to take on caring voluntarily, offering to do so when they would like to, but feeling able to say 'no' if they do not, or cannot.”
At present, the only State financial help for parents is a €100-a-month tax break, which they do not see until they file their annual declarations, meaning up to 18 months before they receive their overpaid tax back in their bank accounts.
Otherwise, only couples with three or more children, or two or more where one is permanently disabled, or single parents with a minimum of two children receive any government help, and this is generally very small.
It means the days of one parent being able to give up work or switch to part-time hours to bring up children whilst the other 'brings home the bread' are long gone – now, both parents need full-time jobs to feed their families, and day-care costs are frequently prohibitive.
School hours and working hours clash, meaning kids come home just as their parents are returning to work after the long lunch hour, and families do not coincide until around 21.00 on weekdays.
As a result, grandparents have become almost an essential commodity.
The UDP and UNAF is calling upon the government to 'recognise the social contribution' made by grandparent child-carers, perhaps by giving them a 'wage' for doing so.
Meanwhile, some regions in Spain have changed school hours to fit with parents' work – in the Comunidad Valenciana, the majority of primary schools now finish at 14.00, when the adults knock off for lunch, although free after-school activities are held until around 18.00 and additional ones thereafter for a small fee.
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