Europe is living a number of deep transformations, which have been systematically avoided until now. Demography and the ageing population, youth unemployment and skills mismatch, waste of the professional potential of women and a labour market that seems to be more interested in preserving the status quo, trying to fit contemporary society into an old mould instead of having the courage of rethinking itself, promoting a renewed pact based on protection, rights and trust.
COFACE Families Europe believes it is time to move forward and, as it happened with the green economy, to start thinking in terms of a “reconciliation economy” where economic actors are measured also on the social impact they have in their community. Moreover, there is a clear link between reconciliation policies and poverty: the more we allow families to reconcile, the less workers will drop out of the labour market and the less families will be at risk of poverty because of a reduced available income.
On the policy side and in line with this vision, reconciliation policies should not be seen as benefits for young parents but a right for everyone, a review and improvement of the working environment in order to improve the working conditions and well-being of all employees and workers, as well as a contribution to the productivity of the company.
To realise this, we need a holistic and coherent European Package of legislative and non-legislative measures. This would not translate into a flat and homogeneous set of rules imposed on the European continent but a more complex combination of measures, including legislation (but not only) that would allow room for local and national diversity in its application. The aim is an upward convergence towards an inclusive and sustainable growth in the EU based on a fairer economy.
The key principles on which this vision is based are the following:
– Reconciliation measures as a safety net for all families, regardless of the ethnicity, migrant background, disability or socio-economic status of its members.
– Involvement of men and fathers: reconciliation aims at gender equality but it is not a women’s issue only.
– Life course perspective: reconciliation legislation and policy has to respond to the needs of all generations.
We believe the best way to operationalise the vision, paving the way to achieve a reconciliation economy
and society, is through a policy mix of legislative and non-legislative measures, based on three main pillars:
RESOURCES: The first pillar is availability of resources for families. This pillar is made of a number of elements that can all support working families to have decent living standards that would allow them to live in dignity and avoid the risk of poverty.
SERVICES: Next to the pillar of available resources, another extremely important area making it possible for families to reconcile their work with family, care and private life is an adequate provision of care services.
TIME: The third and last pillar is time in work organization, meaning both leave schemes and flexible working arrangements. Leave schemes refer to periods of time off from work for employed parents or other relatives and flexible working arrangements can take different forms like job sharing, tele-work, smart work, compressed working hours, possibility to swap shifts among employees… Having access to generous, flexible and paid leaves, plus flexible working arrangement can be very beneficial for allowing workers to better reconcile their work, family and personal life.
See our vision, policy approach, and recommendations for EU legislation in our new COFACE position paper: Families on the edge: building a comprehensive European WorkLife balance reality (March 2017).