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The child in the family

Uruguay: Gender and democratic family relationships

© UNICEF Uruguay/2004/Contrera

As in many other countries, the Uruguayan family has experienced major transformations in recent years.

Divorces and separations have increased remarkably, resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of children who are growing up without their fathers in the home.

Although women in Uruguay take greater advantage of educational opportunities than men, they are more often unemployed or underemployed than men, despite the high percentage of women in the work force. Women also earn lower salaries than men for the same types of jobs, and assume the primary responsibility for household tasks and child care.

To understand the effect of the transformations on the Uruguayan family, child care practices, and gender relations in the home, UNICEF supported research studies conducted by the University of the Republic of Uruguay.

The research clearly demonstrates the differences between men and women in child care practices. One of the findings drawing the most attention is the impact of the economic deterioration in the homes of children whose parents separate or divorce. A significant number of fathers do not contribute to their children's economic security following separation. In Montevideo, the nation's capital, 60% of fathers fail to pay any type of child support. This is further complicated by the fact that 32% of children whose parents have separated have no contact with their fathers. Therefore, mothers must assume all of the responsibility for raising children in homes with drastically reduced budgets.

Child care and domestic tasks are assumed by women regardless of the family structure. A large percentage of Uruguayan women work two jobs outside the home, in addition to their household chores. Therefore, the study concludes, life satisfaction is greater for women without children than for those who care for children in the home.

Identifying the types of tasks that men and women assume in the care of children; how much time they dedicate to these tasks; and which family members help, is the first step towards finding effective solutions for child care that also respect women's rights. The study has raised public awareness of family issues impacting children, and can contribute to revising and developing public policies.

UNICEF and the university have demonstrated the need for supporting and promoting more responsible fatherhood, while ensuring women's and children's rights. Political figures, as well as all Uruguayan men and women, will play a critical role in reviewing legislative and social policies that promote changes in gender stereotypes prevalent in Uruguayan society today. 



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