9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN14 Gender Relations in the Labour Market and the Welfare State

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Work Life Balance Building AA, AA.324

The balancing act between work and family life across Europe: Gender differences in perceptions of work life conflict

The study of work-life conflict is a very timely topic which has recently gained increased attention from policy makers, partly because of the conflicts that mothers often face in reconciling employment with family responsibilities.
In the present study, we use data from the second round of the European Social Survey (ESS) to explore the impact of policies on work-life conflict in four countries; Germany, France, Ireland and the UK. We focus our analysis on individuals who live with a partner and specifically consider the partner´s contribution to paid and unpaid work within the household. This is of particular interest as the division of labour within households has recently undergone remarkable changes. We compare several categories of paid work strategies, ranging from the dual income model to the traditional male breadwinner model. Similarly, we assess whether unpaid labour within a household is mostly done by the female, male or both partners.
We find that, on average, men report higher levels of work-life conflict than women, but women who work full-time have perceptions similar to men´s. However, women still do more household chores than men, even when both partners are working full-time. Whether people perceive an imbalance between family and work partly depends on their attitudes towards traditional gender roles, and thus, perhaps, whether the within household division of labour is considered to be fair.
We further observe country-specific differences in work-life conflict, and hypothesize that these differences can be explained, in part, by policies which influence labour market participation and gender attitudes. Previous studies tend to compare work life conflict across countries based on current policies. In contrast, we hypothesize that the policies that are in place when individuals are first becoming parents and are making decisions about the gender division of paid and unpaid labour are likely to be more relevant. We investigate this hypothesis by a cross-generational, cross-country comparison of factors that influence work-life conflict.