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Traditional gender roles persist at the end of working life and into retirement

A set of studies carried out at the Centre for Psychological Research and Social Intervention (CIS-Iscte) identifies gender differences in a variety of social spaces, including in the context of remote working, which seem to persist during retirement.


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Differences between men and women still prevail in the world of work. According to data from the OECD, women spend more hours a day on unpaid work than men, namely housework or caring for the family. In addition, in Portugal, in 2021 the median annual salaries of men were around 12% higher than those of women. Researcher Maria Helena Santos (CIS-Iscte), a specialist in Gender Social Psychology, has been exploring the perspectives and experiences of men and women in different social and professional contexts at various stages of life, and has found data to support these statistics. According to the researcher, differences based on traditional gender roles are observed in various genderized professions, such as in the cleaning sector, among secondary school teachers, but also in the political sphere, where female representation is still in the minority.


In fact, the research team composed of Maria Cecília Eduardo (Federal University of Paraná), Maria Helena Santos (CIS-Iscte) and Ana Lúcia Teixeira (CICS.NOVA) also published, in 2023, a study that presents a descriptive and comparative analysis of the statutes of political parties with representation in the Chamber of Deputies, in the case of Brazil, and in Parliament, in the case of Portugal. The main goal was to assess the inclusiveness of party statutes and the commitment of political parties to promoting gender equality and women's political participation in their organizational frameworks, in Portugal and Brazil. In general, the researchers observed that left-wing parties have historically been more encouraging of women's involvement in both countries, at least in their statutory rules. Maria Helena Santos explains: "In terms of percentage, in the Brazilian case, three of the four centrist parties and around 66% of the left-wing parties have at least one mention of the issue of non-discrimination and/or gender equality. In contrast, less than half of the right-wing parties present this matter in their party texts. In Portugal, no right-wing party mentions this principle, which appears in more than half of the statutes of left-wing parties." The study also reports that despite the presence of inclusive statutes in many Brazilian parties, there does not seem to be a direct influence on the number of women they elect, suggesting a discrepancy between the statutory provisions and the actual results in terms of women's representation. Finally, although both Brazil and Portugal have electoral quotas for women, the specific percentages and electoral systems differ, which may have an impact on the election of women in each country.


Maria Helena Santos recognizes that, in recent decades, there have been efforts to create conditions that promote greater equality between men and women. However, she considers that much remains to be done. "One of the factors that has highlighted and, in some cases, aggravated these differences has been the pandemic and the context of remote working," explains the researcher. Data from a study published in 2023 suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in the division of unpaid work between parental figures, with women taking on a greater share of domestic and family care tasks. The research team, made up of researchers from Iscte (Maria Helena Santos, Miriam Rosa, Jéssica Ramos, and Ana Catarina Carvalho) and ICS-ULisboa (Rita Correia), noted that despite the pre-pandemic advances in equality between men and women, significant gender inequalities persisted in the division of unpaid work, especially for couples with young children. Women, especially those who worked remotely, experienced lower job satisfaction due to the lack of sharing of care tasks. "These results underline the need for a more equitable division of unpaid work between parents, especially in times of crisis, and highlight the importance of working arrangements that allow for a more balanced division of unpaid work in order to increase job satisfaction," concludes Maria Helena Santos.

"In addition to gender differences being observed throughout working life, these seem to affect individual trajectories and carry over into the retirement period," - Maria Helena Santos adds.

The researcher was part of an Iscte research team, also made up of Maria Carolina Pereira and Miriam Rosa, which explored the perspectives and experiences of men and women in their retirement. The results revealed great variability in the way men and women plan their retirement, for example in their perspectives on retirement, but also in the activities they engage in. Specifically, during retirement women reported being busier with household chores, family care and physical exercise, while men reported devoting more time to hobbies and socializing activities. "Our data indicates a continuity of gender roles in retirement," says Miriam Rosa (CIS-Iscte), stressing that the concerns that characterize women's working lives remained unchanged in retirement. In addition, women were less satisfied with their pensions than men, reflecting the impact of different life and work trajectories on pension outcomes. The researchers emphasize the importance of understanding retirement in the context of the different employment and life trajectories of men and women, pointing out their influence on retirement experiences.


Maria Helena Santos hopes to continue exploring gender-related psychosociological issues, ultimately aiming to inform policy decisions based on scientific data. "If we understand the complexities of experiences throughout life, not only in the active work phase, but also in retirement, we can work to promote equality between men and women and improve the quality of life for all people," the researcher concludes.

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