Tag Archives: Europe

Do we really want to become Danes when it comes to childcare?

creative commons copy right Vilseskogen @Flickr

 

Ah, the Danish model of childcare. So much ink has been spilt over how great of a system it is, in terms of cost, quality as well as just the abundance/accessibility of it – and consequently how it really supports/allows mothers to get back to work after childbirth.

Yet we all know, we can’t all be Danes… or can we? Continue reading

Working Paper 1: The Provision of Flexitime

The Work, Autonomy, Flexibility and Work-Life Balance (WAF) Project today releases its first working paper by principal investigator Heejung Chung.

This paper examines the provision of flexitime in companies across a number of European countries. The results show that company composition, structure and agency factors all play a role in explaining the provision of flexitime. However, the factors explaining the provision of flexitime within each country are not necessarily the same as those explaining how companies provide it to employees.

Cross-national variance in the provision of flexitime in 2009 can be explained mostly through national level demand: female labour market participation rates, cultural norms on work, as well as the affluence of the country. This is a change from 2004, where the most important factors explaining the provision of flexitime were government efforts in providing family policy and the size of the public sector.

Overall, this paper shows that the more relevant factors in explaining why companies provide flexitime, especially as related to cross-national differences, seem to be based on the demand for such policies and the available resources to meet the demands.

You can download the full working paper here.

Making choices between policies and real lives

father and son by Petra Gagilas

Barbara Hobson draws on the research of a team within a large European Network of Excellence, Reconciling work and welfare (RECWOWE), many of whom are authors in the recent book, Worklife Balance: The Agency and Capabilities Gap, focusing on the individual/household, firm and managerial level and welfare state policy context across European countries and Japan. In this post she discusses the choices faced by those who seek to take advantage of work-life balance policies. Continue reading

Living and working in Europe 2014 – Eurofound

The Eurofound 2014 Yearbook on Living and Working in Europe covers recent employment trends, highlights job creation and job loss has occurred, and suggests where investment in future growth is best directed.

Amongst its findings, data show that of those establishments that offer working time flexibility 44% do so only on a limited basis, with 35% having a selective offering. Only 20% of establishments have schemes that are encompassing; i.e. offer a broad range of flexible working time arrangements that usually are available to most or all employees.

However, analysis shows that those establishments offering flexible work on a encompassing basis have higher levels of performance and employee wellbeing. Those with selective provision have similar levels of well-being but lower performance, while limited provision establishments have lower performance and well-being than those with encompassing schemes.

Read more at Eurofound.

Promoting uptake of parental and paternity leave among fathers in the European Union – Eurofound

This new report from Eurofound notes that the take-up rate of parental and paternity leave among fathers has been increasing across the EU but remains relatively low. This report looks at:

  • Trends in terms of take-up of parental and paternity leave
  • Existing provisions
  • Factors influencing take-up rates.

It also explores initiatives recently implemented by national authorities, governments and social partners to promote the take-up of parental and paternity leave, particularly among fathers.

It finds that while only three EU member states provide no paternal leave, it remains that where it is provided entitlements and benefits vary widely. This means that, in practice, “under the current parental and paternity leave regulations, children born in different countries have different chances of spending some time with their fathers in the first days of their lives”.

The report suggests that to increase take up of paternal leave, certain issues must be address. These include:

  • Wage replacement rates
  • Greater flexibility in terms of sharing and taking leave over time
  • Increased availability of information to potential leave takers and employers
  • Flexible return to work policies.

The report concludes by noting that promotion of equal uptake of leave by both parents will greatly contribute to a more equal participation of women and men in employment.

Read more at Eurofound.

Work harder for gender equality, say MEPs – EU Parliament

The EU Parliament has passed a resolution stating that more progress is needed on some gender inequality issues. They highlight pay gaps, “glass ceilings” on women’s careers and a need to improve their work/life balance, including parental leave.

The resolution notes that flexible working arrangements can improve women’s participation in labour markets but can also affect wages. As such, MEPs encourage women and men to share family responsibilities. To this end, they note that fathers should have a right to at least 10 days’ paid paternity leave, and the European Commission to offer EU member states more financial support for affordable childcare systems.

Read more at EU Parliament.

Women and Flexible Working – IPPR

This report starts by noting that there is a ‘significant’ gap in male and female employment across Europe. It argues that this means economies are failing to utilise their full potential. In particular it highlights:

  1. Low rates of female employment, which effects economic output.
  2. A high prevalence of women working below their ‘qualification grade’, which might have effects in terms of a sub-optimal allocation of skills across an economy.
  3. Underemployment in terms of hours – particularly a persistent yet variable gap in working hours between men and women across typical life phases, which raises issues of productivity, staff retention and recruitment costs at the level of the firm.

The report looks at how flexible working options may play a part in addressing such negative outcomes. Furthermore, it also examines the challenges and opportunities that increased flexible working might offer. Findings include:

  • Increased part-time work and employee schedule control can be associated with an increased female employment rate.
  • The concentration of part-time work in low-level jobs may increase the tendency for women to work in occupations below their skill level.
  • Part-time work is often the main flexible working option, possibly leading to: unnecessarily low average working hours among new mothers, and mothers’ average working hours continuing to remain low throughout their careers.
  • High-levels of demand for a larger range of flexible working options among working women.

Read more at the IPPR.

Why U.S. Women Are Leaving Jobs Behind – New York Times

This article notes that while the United States had one of the top employment rates in the world for women, this has now fallen behind many European countries. The percentage of women in the American work force peaked in 1999, at 74% for those between 25 and 54. It has since fallen, to 69%. The article notes that while the economic downturn of recent years has eliminated many jobs, a lack of family-friendly policies also appears to have contributed to the lower rate.

Survey data shows that 61% of non-working women weren’t in employment due to family responsibilities, compared to 37% of non-working men. Of the women who identify as ‘homemakers’, and who have not looked for a job in the last year, nearly three-quarters would consider going back if a job offered flexible hours or allowed them to work from home.

Furthermore, there are different perceptions of non-working for men and women, and women’s experiences are more likely to reported positively than men. Women are more likely to say that not working has improved their romantic relationships and spend more time exercising than they once did. Men, meanwhile, report negative impacts on their romantic relationships and exercise less.

Yet, many women remain interested in working again, assuming the right prevailing conditions. Particularly important is the flexibility to avoid upending their family life. For many US women with children, the decision about whether to work involves weighing a particularly complex set of benefits and drawbacks. The issues, however, are often insurmountable as the United States has a dearth of programs and policies to support women in work, such as subsidized childcare, parental leaves and taxation of individuals instead of families, which are common in Europe.

The article argues that while the extensive benefits and employment protections granted the European workers has had economic impacts on job markets, the US approach of flexible labour markets with few benefits also has it’s costs, also: ” The free market leaves many families, particularly many women, struggling to find a solution that combines work and home life.”

Read more at the New York Times.

How much balance is there between your work-life and family-life?

National Work-life Week

In this blog, originally published at The Conversation, WAF Project Principal Investigator, Heejung Chung, explores European Survey data on work-life balance. 

This week celebrates the 3rd  annual National Work-Life Week in the UK, organised by WAF Project advisory board members Working Families.  It’s where both employers and workers are asked to think about their work-life balance and perhaps try to strike a balance, if only for a week.

But how are we doing in terms of work-life balance? To what extent do people in the UK feel like they are satisfied with the balance between their work and family life? Who feels more balance, why?  And, more importantly, what can be done to improve work-life balance for everyone? Continue reading

Determinants of Flexible Work — Considering Contexts

wafpro-sq

As part of the WAF Project we will provide succinct summaries to key academic resources. These resources are drawn from peer-reviewed journals, or were written by academics for government departments or other organisations with remits that cover work flexibility, autonomy and work-life balance.

These academic resources form an important part of the literature this project is engaging with. More than this, they also provide an overview of the most important contributions to, and the state-of-the-art in, current academic debates. Continue reading