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Between Professional Status and Family Policy: The Employment of Maternal Assistants in France

Marie-Agnès Barrère-Maurisson, Séverine Lemière

Within the redeployment of Welfare state regime started in France for several years, some activities have tended to professionalize, thus generating employment and social protection. The situation of the maternal assistants seems symptomatic of this phenomenon. Indeed, the maternal assistants symbolize the recognition in professional skills of activities associated a long time with the domestic and family tasks carried out within the family sphere. The current bill concerns nearly 300 000 people who could thus claim with a true professional status of employment. This job is central in the articulation between working and family life. True «agents of conciliation» for many active mothers, the maternal assistants are often themselves mothers and active, their relation of employment being in the core of the articulation. The parents articulate by their intermediary their family and professional life, employ and manage the employment relation with these maternal assistants, and constitute a specific of employers, the “parent-employers ». The specific characteristics of this relation of employment are analyzed here, as well as the conditions of the professionalizing process. But beyond the institutional will, some ambiguities remain, in particular about the recognition of competences. The difficulty of creating a real social consensus undoubtedly holding with the particular nature of employment but also with the interests of the involved parts: assistants, parent-employers and the State. And beyond the introduction of an employment status, a real social stake seems to be played through the articulation of the employment policies and the family policies, and the continuation of multiple goals. In particular, the bill can be seen like the participation of the State in the «management of the parenthood « , within the institutionalization of procedures aiming at a better conciliation between the professional life and the family life of the workers.