Women’s engagement with employed work has immediate visibility since it takes place in the public sphere. Men’s involvement in family work, by contrast, does not tie into the same social value-claiming process. Men’s performance of household and family tasks is arguably much more “revolutionary” in terms of changing established norms and values than women’s involvement in employed work.

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.


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