Editorial: Work-life Balance: A Matter of Choice?

Work–life balance has come to the forefront of policy discourse in developed countries in recent years, against a backdrop of globalization and rapid technological change, an ageing population and concerns over labour market participation rates, those of mothers at a time when fertility rates are falling

Abigail Gregory; Susan Milner

2008

Scholarcy highlights

  • Work–life balance has come to the forefront of policy discourse in developed countries in recent years, against a backdrop of globalization and rapid technological change, an ageing population and concerns over labour market participation rates, those of mothers at a time when fertility rates are falling
  • From as far back as the 1960s studies have proliferated on the linkages between work and family roles, originally concerned mainly with women and work–family stress. New concepts emerged, such as work–family conflict or interference, work–family accommodation, work–family compensation, work–family segmentation, work– family enrichment, work–family expansion and, work–family balance. This last concept preceded that of work–life balance and implies ‘the extent to which individuals are involved in- and satisfied with — their work role and family role’, suggesting that by giving equal priority to both roles, work–family conflict — mutually incompatible pressures from the two domains — could be rapidly resolved
  • By focusing on employees with family responsibilities, the notion of work–family balance was considered in practice as triggering off a backlash in the workplace among non-parents
  • The term ‘work–life balance’ gained widespread use in English language research and policy arenas, enabling a wider understanding of non-work concerns to be encompassed in employment research
  • Take-up has been linked to the factors that make up the organizational work–life culture, such as the extent of manager and co-worker support, the career consequences of taking a work–life balance measure, organizational time expectations and gendered perceptions of policy use
  • In investigating fathers’ time practices, Kvande discusses two specific cases drawn from different research projects. Both cases highlight the way in which organizational flexibility is internalized by employees, so that the work–life balance is felt to be a matter of individual organization and boundless work is seen as a problem that individuals must resolve
  • Rather than greater provision of formal childcare, the authors identify a strong demand for working-time reduction and for parental leave policies in order to give both men and women a better balance between work and family, for low-waged couples

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