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A Family Policy Aimed at a Better Family-Work Relationship. Challenges for Working Quebec Parents from a Low Socio-Economic Background

Annabelle Seery

Research Framework: Quebec’s family policy, which is very focused on family-work balance, is based in particular on two measures, the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) and the public childcare network. These measures would, among others, promote job retention of parents, women, and men. However, this policy is implemented at a time when the labor market is becoming more precarious, particularly for people already marginalized in employment, such as women or people with a low level of education.

Objectives: This article proposes to better understand the working arrangements between spouses of modest socio-economic background, starting from the story of the people concerned and then highlighting the issues underlying the family-work relationship of these parents.

Methodology: The analyses presented are based on 30 qualitative interviews of a comprehensive type carried out with Quebec parents in heterosexual couples on low incomes and without a university degree (17 women and 13 men).

Results: The narratives collected account for the difficulties in combining family and work when the parents are working atypical and low-paid jobs. The QPIP and reduced contribution childcare services offered in Quebec are therefore not very useful for these parents.

Conclusions: The types of employment held as well as the sexual division of labor play an important role in the « choices » made by these parents regarding the use of the measures offered. Gender relations, particularly in the context of financial precariousness, hinder the achievement of the objectives of family policy concerning the family-work relationship while mothers are restricted in their access to employment.

Contribution: By highlighting the difficulties of family-work relationship of working parent couples from a low socio-economic background, this article opens the discussion on the needs of parents who are generally little taken into account.