A family-friendly workplace requires more than
just flexible working hours
March 2013, AGF
12th March German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Federal Minister for
Family Affairs, Dr. Kristina Schröder met with unions and employers at the Family Summit 2013 (Familiengipfel) to discuss the Federal government’s plans
in helping families reconcile their work and family life. The federal
government together with the main representatives of the German economy and the
German Trade Union Federation (DGB) discussed how to advance their shared
commitment to a family-friendly work environment with specific targeted
federal Ministry started a programme called "Erfolgsfaktor Familie” – family as
success factor. At the event Chancellor Merkel stressed, that the federal
government would like to contribute to the better reconciliation of work and
family life, and to set out the right conditions for this is one of the
cornerstones of the German federal Family policy. One of the ideas is to make
it easier to switch between part-time and full-time work, without any longer
term negative consequences for the employees.
of the main outcomes of the talk was to prepare a regular report on "Family and
Work”, which will monitor the successes and the still existing challenges and
outcomes of the targeted policies. A high-level committee will also be set up,
that will ensure the continued visibility and sustainability of this project.
German member, the Association of German Family Organisations (AGF) commented
on the Family summit in a Press release. In it AGF points out that, to achieve
a family-friendly work environment much remains to be done. Mothers and fathers
are still having great difficulties reconciling their work and family life. The
realities of family life are still being ignored, the available childcare
offers do not meet the demand, and there are also problems with the voices of
families and their organisations to be heard. What is needed is a paradigm
shift in the working culture, as well as a family-friendly legal and policy
President of AGF, Dr. Klaus Zeh stressed, that there is still a great gap
between the expectations of the families and the corporate sector. Many
employers are proud of their flexible working time arrangements and the possibilities
of working from home, but they ignore that more flexibility doesn’t necessarily
mean more family friendly. What families urgently need is a changed mindset of
the corporate working culture that does not consider having a family as a
nuisance, but as enrichment.
"The fairytale story of family diversity"
always taken innumerable shapes and sizes in our society. Most fairytales for
example, tell stories of non-traditional families, like Little Red Riding Hood,
the child of a lone parent family, or Cinderella’s blended family. The list
goes on and on. And while we have all grown up knowing different kinds of
family, not all are treated equally.
This is what
prompted Spain’s Union of Family Associations, UNAF
, to host its Congress of
Families on the theme "The fairytale story of family diversity" in
Madrid on 12 to 14 December. The conference looked at the multiple family models
that are now an inescapable fact of life.
The Congress was
an opportunity to share knowledge and ideas on different family models
like lone parent families;
differences in abilities; age and sexual orientation; multiculturalism; blended
families; adoption and foster care; social exclusion; and psychological
development in new family structures.
Transitions between family models
during a person’s
life are increasingly frequent, reflecting entrenched gender inequalities in
the family, greater freedom of self-determination and longer life expectancies.
One case study
given illustrates a problem affecting many crisis-hit households: the growing
number of families forced to move in and live with grandparents.
also highlighted the need for a better balance between working life and family
life. Investing in measures to improve
work-family life balance
has a positive impact on
job creation, well-being, gender equality, and prevention of poverty and social
conclusion reached by the Congress was that while "reasonable"
equality for families has been achieved in justice and education, inequalities remain
and may even be
getting worse in extreme cases since the onset of the crisis, which effectively
"fosters family diversity".
parent, blended, adoptive, LGBT ... what makes a family is not the set-up but
the warmth and quality of its members’ relations.
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Microcredit in France: a plan B for those the
banks don’t want?
The economic and financial crisis of recent years has
plunged growing numbers into financial difficulties. One in ten people have
less than 700 euros a month to live on.
Personal microcredit is a loan that can help
individuals who cannot get standard forms of credit to get through temporary
difficulties and avoid social exclusion, such as by finding a job.
Around 80% of microcredit loans are for a job or car,
and 10% for housing. A typical microcredit loan is for 300 to 3000 euros at a
fixed interest rate of between 2 and 5%. The French state guarantees 50% of the
loan amount. One thing that sets microcredit apart from traditional credit or a
consumer loan is the follow-up and support provided by social welfare groups
like the local UDAFs who vet and forward applications to a bank. UNAF has plans
to develop information tools to enable local UDAFs to proactively provide
social follow-up and support for microcredit.
UNAF and the URAF for the Alsace
region staged a national day conference on microcredit in Strasbourg on 21 November.
Jean-Bernard Audureau, Chair of COFACE’s Consumers
Working Group, moderated the panel on the European aspects and
experience-sharing with microcredit in other countries, including Spain.
Françoise Van Zeebroeck talked about what CREDAL does
in Belgium, while Patrick
Kosman gave a run-down on Secours Catholique’s activities in Italy and Britain.
COFACE has already stressed the value of microcredit
in its policy position on financial inclusion and debt prevention. Microcredit practiced in the right
conditions with proper social follow-up and appropriate loan terms can help
tackle social exclusion and tide families over financial or other straits.
The conference programme is available here
Childcare: still much to do says LDF Belgium
Parents who cannot find a nursery place for their children
are forced into making unpalatable decisions in life. Stopping work, long
morning and evening treks, hiring babysitters or calling on grandparents are
solutions many parents have to fall back on, show the findings of a Ligue des
Childcare is a key issue on several counts: it is a
mainstay of policies for work-life balance, gender equality, education,
employment and employability, quality of life and the fight against social
exclusion and poverty. It is also part of a comprehensive policy to support parenthood:
parenting makes demands in time, financial resources and community-based
services, and all are equally essential. But Belgium’s French-speaking Ligue des
Familles association reports that community-based services are what parents
most lack today.
COFACE was at the Ligue des Familles’ Autumn
University on 13 November which brought together a range of experts and
stakeholders in childcare matters to discuss the shortage of childcare places,
foster debate and put forward the Ligue’s own four-point list of demands:
1. Create 4,000 new quality places a year
2. Cut the cost of childcare for parents
3. Encourage the Office National de l’Enfance child
welfare agency to support stakeholders
4. Halt the fragmentation of responsibilities by
creating a Ministry for Children (French-speaking Belgium has 9 ministers with
responsibility for children).
These four priorities are based on the alarming
figures thrown up by parent surveys done by the Ligue des Familles from late
2011 to early 2012: 73% of parents with children under 3 struggle to find
childcare; 25% of women have had to cut their working hours because they cannot
find childcare; 12% of parents have stopped work to care for their children;
and 15% of parents cannot afford to pay for childcare.
National – and especially EU - policy objectives have
so far focused on the coverage rate of childcare services, but that is not
enough. They must also meet quality standards, fulfil a learning and
educational remit, and address families’ specific circumstances and needs
(children with disabilities, unsocial hours jobs, lone parents, migrant
A high level of public investment is therefore called
for both to increase the supply of places but also for childcare worker and
qualified staff training.
The OECD’s Dominic Richardson has also noted that
states only start to invest seriously in children’s education from age 12
upwards, but investment from the youngest age is essential to improve
COFACE is backing the Ligue des Familles campaign and
will be publishing a policy position on childcare shortly.
Find out more about the event here
Published on 03 Dec 2012
Updated on 02 Apr 2013