What measures can help to balance work and family?

Northern European countries complain of work-family conflict the least; Mediterranean and Eastern European countries the most

Andrea Ollo López, Public University of Navarre
Salomé Goñi Legaz, Public University of Navarre

The increasing incorporation of women into the labour market has led to the emergence of new family models, which has in turn brought tensions to the relationship between work and family. The data compiled in this study show that work-family conflict is high in all European countries, especially in Mediterranean and Eastern European countries, and the conclusion drawn is that in Europe work-family conflict is usually more pronounced for women than for men.
Key points
  • 1
       In Spain, female unemployment has gone from 40.77% of the total in 2006 to 45.46% in 2017. Couples in which the husband is the sole breadwinner, already a minority, coexist with two-income couple and single-person household models. Demographic and economic changes have caused new tensions in the relationship between work and family.
  • 2
       Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands are the European countries with the least work-family conflict. At the opposite extreme are Greece, Hungary and Spain. These differences between territories appear to be linked to the degree of development of the welfare state.
  • 3
       "The Fifth European Working Conditions Survey" reveals that in nearly all European countries (with the exception of Austria, France and Spain) women have more problems balancing work and family life than men, especially in Portugal and Greece.
  • 4
       Family-friendly policies in businesses (support for nurseries or education) tend to be more valued by men while women are especially satisfied with additional parental leave (complementary to what is established by law).
  • 5
       The employees who make use of flexitime practices are not those who most need balance but the employees who are most valuable to the company.
How is work-family conflict experienced in Europe? Degree of work-family conflict in European countries by gender (where 1 is “there is never any conflict” and 5 is “there is always conflict”)
How is work-family conflict experienced in Europe? Degree of work-family conflict in European countries by gender (where 1 is “there is never any conflict” and 5 is “there is always conflict”)

There are cultural factors which also condition work-life balance. One of them is ambiguity aversion, which some countries seek to correct through regulation: for example by creating parental leave, family protection laws and nurseries. Another cultural variable that should be taken into account is social support, which translates into support offered from the company or from the family environment. In this sense, there are countries that try to reward those who carry out these actions in a selfless way.

Some recommendations for favouring balance between family and professional life are the following ones: 
 

  1. Those countries most inclined towards regulation should facilitate separation between the private and labour spheres of the public as much as possible.

  2. Societies with a tendency to reward generous and humanitarian actions should provide support to help fulfil work and personal obligations.

  3. Companies adopting practices that favour balancing work and family life should do so adapting them to the country’s culture and the profile of their professionals.

  4. Corporate balance policies should respond to the real needs of employees, which will increase their well-being and, consequently, corporate profits

Classification

Autoras

Andrea Ollo López , Public University of Navarre
Salomé Goñi Legaz , Public University of Navarre

Tags

Subject areas

Related content

Infodata

Households with very low work intensity and dependent children, greater risk of poverty and social exclusion

Some 79.3% of households with children and with very low work intensity were at risk of poverty in 2017. Does this figure exceed the European average?

Article

Social transfers targeting children: the best way to fight child poverty?

In Spain barely 3.3% of the total of social transfers in the year 2016 targeted children, against the European average of 9%. However, this study shows that it is the most effective way of eradicating poverty.

Best practices

CaixaProinfancia Programme

The CaixaProinfancia programme supports families in a situation of poverty with academic reinforcement, grants for food and hygiene, leisure, psychotherapeutic care and family educational support.

Review

The high price of inequality: lessons on the costs and consequences of child poverty in advanced societies

The books reviewed here consider why it is important for everyone, and not just for the most vulnerable, to achieve more egalitarian societies.

Article

The enduring impact of the economic crisis on child poverty

Despite the economic recovery, in 2018 three out of every ten children were living in a situation of anchored poverty. Poverty during childhood has consequences throughout life. We analyse its impact.

You may also find interesting

Interview

“To alleviate poverty, there are small investments that can have an enormous impact”

“To alleviate poverty, there are small investments that can have an enormous impact”

Social Inclusion

Can poverty be eradicated? Michael Kremer, Nobel Prize for Economics 2019, talks to us about new tools for the economy, which enable us to obtain a rigorous estimate of causes and impacts.

Report

Analysis of social needs of women and men

Analysis of social needs of women and men

Social Inclusion

Have we improved in terms of equality between men and women? In this report we analyse five dimensions: economic wellbeing, employment, access to decent housing, education and state of health.

Article

Strengths and weaknesses of Spain’s economy with regard to the challenge of digitalisation

Strengths and weaknesses of Spain’s economy with regard to the challenge of digitalisation

Social Inclusion

A lack of investment in innovation, major employment precarity and a lack of refresher training are obstacles for tackling the digitalisation of the Spanish economy. We analyse the causes.