Family and Reconciliation
Reconciliation of family and work has been on the forefront of family policy discussions in Germany and across Europe. Reconciling family and work is a double-edged issue that needs to be approached from two directions: time for work and time for the family, the latter one meaning more time for childcare or care for relatives. The focus of reconciliation policies on mothers has recently widened to include also fathers and caring relatives. Reconciliation can be supported through more time for work. Formal childcare, for instance public childcare institutions, plays a central role here. On the other hand, parental and care leave schemes offer more time for the family. The latter aspect is part of the European Commission’s Work-Life Balance package. The Commission hereby intends to set a fresh impulse on European level.
Series of European Expert Meetings on Work-Life Balance
In April 2017, the European Commission released its work-life balance package. Besides a set of non-legislative measures aimed, inter alia, at childcare, the package contains a proposal for a directive on reconciling professional and private life for parents and family carers. The European Commission therewith gave important fresh impulses for European standards in the area of work life balance.
Against the background of the work-life balance package, the Observatory together with the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth organised a series of European Expert Meetings in 2017-2018. During these two-day events, experts from various European countries discussed different aspects of reconciliation policy. The aim was to support the Europe-wide exchange of ideas and good practices.The documentations of the Expert Meetings are published in the corresponding sections below.
Aims and requirements of work-life balance policies from a gender equality perspectiveThere is one predominant, implicit assumption within the debate about improved reconciliation of work and family life: fostering work-life balance also fosters gender equality. However, this assumption has to be questioned in its generalisation. For instance, long-term unpaid leave options offer more time for the family. However, due to existing differences in salaries as well as societal norms and values, it is mainly women who make use of such instruments. The effects are long career breaks, low career development opportunities as well as wage and pension gaps. Therefore, it all depends on the concrete policy design of such instruments. They determine how work-life balance policy affects the organisation of paid work and care work as well as gender equality. The Observatory discusses which aims and requisites work-life balance policy should have from a gender equality perspective.
Father involvement in family workFathers all over Europe wish to get more involved in family work – and they are expected to do so. The work-life balance package of the European Commission aims to promote father involvement. Across Europe there are many policy measures to support this aim: father specific leave month with income replacement, flexibility in the use of parental leave, and paternity leave. The Observatory shows how these policies can be designed and what effects they have.
ChildcareChildcare is a key factor in enabling parents to participate in gainful employment and in family work simultaneously. A good care infrastructure as well as trust in the care facilities are crucial for parents to find a balance between work and care responsibilities. Additionally, early childhood education and care also has a decisive relevance for children and their development. The Observatory shows how initiatives on the European level as well as national and regional measures and legislation are aiming at improving access to high-quality childcare for all children.
Reconciliation of elderly care and work
More and more people work and at the same time care for their relatives. How do policies support these people to handle this double burden? The Observatory takes up this question and conducts comprehensive research on the issue. A European Expert Meeting addressed this topic. The research focuses on leave and financial support for family caregivers.
Documentation of the European Expert Meeting on 4 and 5 September 2017 in Berlin.
80 percent of care in Europe is provided by informal caregivers. Family carers are especially reliant on information and counselling on care issues. Furthermore, they should have access to information about their rights as carers. Advice and support for family carers can positively contribute to their own health and can prevent them from becoming overburdened. The expertise “Young Carers – Support measures in Austria, the United Kingdom and Ireland” shows furthermore that many children and adolescents are caregivers who would be highly benefited from support and advice.