Work-Family Balance: Let’s start the debate

On the 26th of April 2017, the European Commission released a Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on work-life balance for parents and carers and repealing Council Directive 2010/28/EU.

The purpose of this proposal is to address equal treatments and opportunities in today’s labour market; to promote non-discrimination and foster gender equality. By doing so, the EU aims to encourage the harmonization of families and with their professional lives.

There are already several directives that tackle gender equality and working conditions; however, they ought to be adapted and modernized in order to meet the society’s needs. By failing to do so, the legislation fails to meet the needs of families.

The EU is well aware that work-life balance is a significant challenge for parents and workers with caring responsibilities. The imbalance causes many issues with mainly gender employment gap, gender pay gap, and gender pension gap. The underrepresentation of women in the labour market is a real problem as it leads to women poverty. Statistics show that “European women on average earn about 16% less than men, but the situation gets worse once they retire as their pension is about 40% less” (European Parliament, 2017). Women tend to work less paid hours in order to be able to take care of their children, which sometimes forces them to drop out of the labour market.

The EU understands that poor work-life balance policy can contribute to these problems. Therefore, improving the work life balance flexibility becomes urgent. The solution given by the European Parliament and the Council consists in offering parents and carers various possibilities on how to manage their personal and professional lifestyle. The European Parliament also encourages the participation of women in the labour market, making it easier for family to equally share responsibilities, and thus, diminishing the gender gaps in terms of income.

Families, companies and the wider society will all benefit from the improvements of the work life balance policies. World Youth Alliance stands for families to be recognized as the heart and soul of human society, as healthy individuals within a healthy family, is the core of a healthy society. Tackling women exclusion and isolation is a priority for World Youth Alliance. Nevertheless, we tend to forget fathers’ inclusion in families. Involving fathers in their family responsibilities is crucial. Our society has to understand that “work is not the only way a man can take care of his family” (Chicago Tribune, 2017). A Canadian 2013 study showed that caregiving fathers reported mistreatments at work, and many fathers are reluctant to take paternity leaves as they fear of being penalized. This is a major issue; dedicated fathers should not be reprimanded for prioritising family life.

Thus, the European Union oughts to foster the protection of families, as society benefits when families are at their most functional.

Written by Astrid Leonet, an intern in the WYA Europe office.