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No 4 - 2006

Work-Family Balance: International Perspectives
Directed by Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay, Jens Thoemmes

Introduction - Family-work balance: international perspectives
Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay

With the adoption of conciliation measures in various countries, including a new parental leave policy in Quebec, one might think that parents have no problem today in reconciling work and family. However, a very large number of research projects in Quebec and elsewhere have highlighted the intensification, over the years, of the difficulties of reconciliation between personal and professional life, or a work/family conflict. The reason for this conflict is parents’ lack of time, which translates into a conflict between the time spent at work and the time spent – or desired – on family and other activities (political, social, cultural). It is often the latter that is neglected; first postponed by the parents and eventually excluded completely from their lives.


Experiences of Work and Family Life Reconciliation in France and Sweden
Anna-Lena Almqvist

This article investigates how social policy and norms affect experiences of the reconciliation of work and family life, using interviews with 40 families with young children from France and Sweden respectively. The major findings indicate that Swedish parents more often experience role conflicts and stress than French parents, thus giving stronger support for the role stress theory among Swedes. Swedes refer to lack of own time whereas particularly French women express dissatisfaction with the domestic division of labour with their partner. French parents favour individual childcare at home or care at the workplace more than Swedes, who emphasise public collective childcare.


Family Life and Working Time Flexibility in Germany: The Myth of Conciliation
Kerstin Jürgens

Changes in the social conditions for families’ ways of living together are main issues raised in current family research. Division of labour between family members no longer fits with the traditional model of breadwinner and householder, rather young parents practise a modernised version of that model, namely full-time work of the man and part-time work of the woman. Due to deficits in the public child-care system, it is difficult for both parents as well as for single parents to reconcile their full-time employment and their needs of private time for care. Recently, the mere duration of working time is no longer the only problem. Often a particular time allocation and circumstances of the working hour arrangement which are defined by the company aggravate parents’ time organisation difficulties. The augmented flexibility of working schedules is mainly due to economic necessities. Therefore the idea of a “work-life-balance” becomes a myth.


The Use of Devices for Family Professional Life Linkage: A Study of 48 Companies from Wallonia (Belgium)
Bernard Fusulier, Silvia Giraldo, Edmond Legros

Based on a first-hand collection of data from 48 medium-sized and large organizations and private firms located in Wallonie (Belgium), this article provides an initial snapshot of whether workers make use of the institutional dispositions available to help them articulate their professional and family lives (maternity leave, paternal leave, parental leave, etc.). It also identifies and takes account of the extra-judicial provisions introduced by organizations. However, the author goes beyond this descriptive perspective, though this is useful in itself since nothing of the kind currently exists, and takes on the question of how organizational relationships differ with regard to such provisions. To this end, the writer has identified three organizational groups: the first, qualified as “purely legalistic”, a second as “reticent”, and a third which is qualified as “proactive”, since it differentiates itself by the fact that it offers extra-judicial provisions and calls more often on less institutional forms of leave, such as “time-entitlement” or palliative care leave. These research results stress the usefulness of a continued study of “organizational mediation” to balance out institutional measures and individual behaviours.


Work-Family Linkage and Working Time: What Measures Do Canadian Workers Have and What Do They Want?
Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay, Elmustapha Najem, Renaud Paquet

Our interest in measures to promote conciliation of work and family life has led us to make use of representative statistical data from the Workplace and Employee Survey (WES) in order to assess the overall situation in Canada. Our data indicates that the progress noted as concerns the social debate on the conciliation of work and family life has not necessarily led to any significant improvement in the prerequisite workplace conditions, and in fact there have even been some signs of regression. For example, there has been a slight increase in the number of days worked per week, coming close to an average of 5 days for men and 4.6 days for women in 2002. Moreover, a large percentage of the Canadian labour force works on variable schedules or rotating shifts, an identified source of difficulty when it comes to conciliation. On the other hand, a significant number of workers report working some hours at home, a factor that can favour conciliation, but can also be seen as cutting into their personal lives. WES data indicates that if people work at home it is because of work demands, not because they see this as a factor in conciliation. In fact, what we are seeing is an overlap of work onto personal life. Additionally, though daycare help and daycare in the workplace are priorities on the wish lists of Canadian parents with children under the age of three, hardly more than a quarter of Canadian workers state that their employers were providing such services in 2002. Likewise, eldercare is available to only 10% of Canadian workers. There is some ambiguity as to the impact of the number of children on work time, working hours and preferred work time. With respect to hopes for a shorter working week, though ambiguity is present, it can be observed that people with one or two children are more inclined to hope for a reduction in the number of hours worked. However, there is a link between the number of children and the wish for extra working hours: the more children one has, the less one wants additional hours.


The 35-Hour Working Week in France: Towards a More Egalitarian Family-Work Balance?
Hervé Defalvard, Martine Lurol, Evelyne Polzhuber

At the time of negotiating the 35-hour working week in France, an analysis of a corpus of 52 interviews with the signatories of the Aubry I agreements, brought out many different conceptions of what is meant by “work time”. They included an approach in which both professional and family time were considered as a single unity where women were concerned, but dissociated in the case of men; a more egalitarian approach in the case of female trade union delegates (UDs) and a more traditional one in the case of others. These different concepts are not, however, only dependent on the status of the person involved – UDs or company representatives (CRs) – nor yet on the sex of the signatories. There are in fact three “fault lines” that override these categories and that are discussed in this article. Thus, we will note the question of gendered relationships in the workplace, which, on the one hand, distances the female UDs from the male UDs, and, on the other, brings the latter closer to both the male and female CRs, with whom they share a feminine approach to the reconciliation of working time and family time. Then there is the generation gap, that divides the more senior UDs and CRs from the younger UDs and CRs, who share with their generation (those in their thirties) a more overall, more egalitarian notion of time and who, thus, come closer to adopting the more homogenous attitude of women to time as a whole. Finally, a third fault line was noted that separated the Ile de France and the provinces: the dissociation of time – work and family life in two separate compartments is more noticeable in the provinces than on the IDF, where there is a more homogeneous sense of time, similar to that shared by women and young people.


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.


A Journey To the Heart of Adolescents' Values: The Family, Great Pillar of a System
Chantal Royer

Recent value studies indicate that the family is one of the most important values for young people worldwide. This article explores and describes the meaning of the “family” value to adolescents. Why is it so important to young people? The stepping-stone for this analysis is data taken from a wider study of the values of young Quebecers. The results document the image of the family entertained by young people, and describe their family projects and their relationships with their parents.


The expectations of parents of preschool children in terms of socio-educational professionals' attitudes and educational behaviors
François Larose, Bernard Terrisse, Johanne Bédard, Yves Couturier

The official position on the many early childhood and family service networks in Quebec has, for almost twenty years now, been in keeping with an ecosystemic approach that emphasizes partnerships between professionals and the family. In this article, we present the results of a survey using a questionnaire administered to a sample of 310 parents of young children who have received services from the health and social network, education network, day-care, as well as from other community organizations. After defining parental expectations regarding the educational attitudes and conducts of various categories of professionals, while taking into consideration many factors that characterize them, we conclude by putting into perspective the different inferential positions that presently distinguish these expectations from the outside.


The Leisure Habits of 6-14-year-olds: Contribution to a Sociology of Childhood and Early Adolescence
Sylvie Octobre

In France, as elsewhere, there has been to date little or no wide sweeping inquiry into the leisure habits of the under-fifteen age group. These young people have always been considered as being infrasocial, as being subject to protection from the negative aspects of certain activities (and more especially those of the media) or as having leisure activities very largely determined by their family culture. They have therefore escaped such inquiries prior to crossing into adolescence. Consequently, there has been a lack of available information as to the role of early childhood and pre-adolescence in the development of their tastes. The study carried out under the aegis of the Département des études, de la prospective et des statistiques (DEPS) of the French Department of Culture and Communications provides a panoramic take on the input of 6-14-year olds with respect to their leisure activities, and ascribes their respective shares to the media (television, listening to music, radio, computer, video games), to reading, to amateur arts, to making use of cultural facilities (cinemas, libraries, live entertainments, heritage sites), and to sports and games. This article picks up on this study (whose results were published in October 2004), and focuses on three questions: how does age impact on changes in attitudes to leisure occupations? What effect does gender have? How and to what extent does primary family socialization target leisure activities and contribute to the reproduction of the phenotype? This discussion will contribute to the (re?)-opening of a sociological and political discourse on childhood seen through the prism of cultural activities.