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 5: Policy Development in the UK, 1997–2007

Jane Lewis

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


The patterns of development of paid and unpaid work of women and men have been somewhat different in the UK from those of most other Western European countries. Women’s employment rates increased rapidly during the 1980s, and had reached the Lisbon target of 60 per cent by the early 1990s, but then slowed. Further increases in women’s employment have been concentrated among mothers with dependent children (Walling, 2005; Simon and Whiting, 2007; Berthoud, 2007). The expansion of women’s paid work in the UK occurred in the absence of statutory programmes to reconcile work and family responsibilities. As in some other continental European countries, notably the Netherlands and Germany, mothers’ employment has tended to be part-time, although in those two countries, particularly the Netherlands, more generous employment conditions have been afforded part-timers. In addition, UK fathers work some of the longest hours in the EU15, longer than German fathers and much longer than Dutch fathers (see Table 2.4). Thus the picture for the UK is very far from one of full individualisation in respect of the labour market or of ‘equal sharing’ of paid or unpaid work between men and women at the household level. Nevertheless, despite long working hours, fathers have contributed increasingly to childcare, something made possible not least by growing ‘flexibility’ and shift work. As ever, it is difficult to know what people ‘want’ or ‘would like’, especially given the entrenched pattern of a one-and-a-half-breadwinner model family and the expectations regarding the domestic division of...

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