Work–Family Balance, Gender and Policy

Work–Family Balance, Gender and Policy

Jane Lewis

This important book looks at the three main components of work–family policy packages – childcare services, flexible working patterns and entitlements to leave from work in order to care – across EU15 Member States, with comparative reference to the US. It also provides an in-depth examination of developments in the UK. Variations in national priorities, policy instruments, established policy orientations and the context for policy making in terms of employment patterns, fertility behaviour and attitudes towards work and care are highlighted.

Chapter 3: Work–Family Balance Policies: Comparisons and Issues

Jane Lewis

Subjects: development studies, family and gender policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, family and gender policy


There is a range of policy choices that have been made in the field of work and family balance. Governments have focused on promoting flexible working, particularly in terms of the hours worked, and on care issues, by enabling parents to care themselves or by financing and/or providing childcare services. There is also considerable variation as to how much states have elected to do and what has been left to parents or to employers. The detailed provisions of each policy instrument also matter in terms of how far they enable genuine choice on the part of mothers and fathers to engage in paid and unpaid work and what effects they have on men’s and women’s decisions in this respect. The nature of the policy priorities and policy packages developed in different countries depends in large measure on the policy goals. Gender equality has not figured largely in these outside the Scandinavian countries. Nevertheless, even the existence of work and family balance policies can play an indirect role in legitimising the changes in the balance of paid and unpaid work that men and women aspire to, as well as a direct role in helping them to achieve their goals. This chapter begins by examining the broad differences between the kind of policy ‘logics’ that exist in different countries, and the broad nature of the incentives and disincentives for men and women to work and to care. It then explores what the issues of care and care work...

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