Gender equality as cornerstone for the reconciliation of family and professional life

COFACE Families Europe believes equality between women and men, and sharing of family care responsibilities (the so-called “co-responsibility”) is a cornerstone for the reconciliation of family and professional life.

Our vision is to allow families to choose how to reconcile work and family life, allowing more men to care and more women to work, decreasing the gender care gap, and secure economic independence therefore.

Decreasing the gender care gap is a key priority for our network and precondition to close the gender pay gap and gender pension gap. This will, this must, lead to more gender equality in family care, like emperor penguins do naturally, and hence also gender equality in the labour market.

COFACE has been supporting the notion of work-life balance for all, based on measures that tackle the stereotypical vision of “traditional” and old-fashioned distributions of roles, where women are caregivers and men are the breadwinners. These elements work as disincentives for men’s involvement in family and care responsibilities.

COFACE therefore believes that the future role of men is to be allowed to better reconcile work and private life. We consider that the best way to operationalise this vision, paving the way to achieve a reconciliation economy and society, is through comprehensive policies based on a mix of RESOURCES, SERVICES and TIME to support families and give them real options for Work-Life balance.

R-S-T means understanding that what families need, regardless of the family form, is a mix of:

  • RESOURCES: income, fair and equal tax systems;
  • SERVICES: childcare, elderly care, care and support for persons with disabilities;
  • TIME: leaves schemes, flexible working arrangementsIndeed, delivering only on one of these three aspects (access to resources, to services, to time arrangements) will help but it will not bring systemic change.
Men should be encouraged, by law, policy or practices at the workplace to take up more leaves in order to rebalance the disparity and trigger a positive change. Choices do not come out of nowhere. Changes go through Law.

All of these will have a long-term impact on women’s employment but also on children and other family members in need of care and support.

Ultimately, this will promote of more equal share of care responsibilities within the family.

Taking family time into account in the organisation of working time increasingly seems to be the prerequisite for successful implementation of the gender equality principle. For that to happen, however, the concept of reconciling work and family life needs to be rethought in universal terms, i.e., in terms that embrace both men’s and women’s wants and needs, not just those of women, as has too often been the case so far. These universal terms can only come about from balancing men’s and women’s needs and wants in terms of time for family life.

Where families specifically are concerned, men must realise that the future of equality in the family depends first and foremost on them, their commitment and ability to negotiate and socially impose the legitimacy of their presence in the home to look after and take care of their children or other dependent family members. Lone-parent fathers who have to contend with this situation could help spearhead change in this respect.

Engineering real equality between men’s and women’s rights cannot stop short at the workplace and public sphere, however essential that may be. It must also extend to the private sphere where the family holds pride of place, failing which the existing gender inequalities will be perpetuated indefinitely.

RESOURCES

Assessments and Papers

  • Paper on the Study on the challenges and needs of family Carers in Europe (2017)
  • Paper on Families on the Edge: The EU urgently needs to address the Work-Life Balance needs of women and men (8 March 2017)

Joint Statements, media releases, factsheets

  • Media Release: Wake up: It’s time! Girl or woman with disabilities: symbol of double discrimination (8 March 2019)

Campaigns

  • Toys and Diversity: A campaign launched in 2016 which aims at detecting and putting a light on gender stereotypes in toys catalogues and shops but it also aims at showing whether the toys are inclusive towards children with disabilities and with migrant background.

Surveys and polls

Useful COFACE Families Europe’ webpages

More resources

  • EIGE’s Gender Equality Index (2019): The Gender Equality Index (GEI) is a tool to measure the progress of Gender Equality in the EU, developed by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). Work-Life Balance was chosen as 2019 thematic focus of the GEI.
  • European Commission’s report on Gender Equality (2019)

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