Academic journal article German Policy Studies

Reconciliation of Work and Family Life in Switzerland

Academic journal article German Policy Studies

Reconciliation of Work and Family Life in Switzerland

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

In October 2004, the results from the Babies and Bosses Studies (OECD 2004; Thoenen 2010) were presented in Switzerland. At the press conference, the Federal Councillors Joseph Deiss and Pascal Couchepin stressed the importance of policies to improve the compatibility of family and employment and admitted that the existing policies are not yet at an acceptable level in Switzerland. Deiss (2004) explains why there are obstacles to introduce a reconciliation policy that actually deserves this name. He stresses two reasons: Firstly, the wide range of such a policy combined with the federal system causes a fragmentation of authority. And secondly, the tight financial situation of the state budget constitutes a second obstacle for further reforms.

Are these really the most important reasons why Switzerland shows so low state support, compared to other western countries, in policies to reconcile family and employment? This chapter will have a look at the reasons why Switzerland has comparably low benefits to help parents improve the compatibility of family and working life.

This chapter investigates the factors regarded by international research as important in explaining the variations in reconciliation policies. These factors will afterwards be discussed in the case of Switzerland-always with a special focus on the role of the Swiss political system and its institutions. The chapter is structured as follows: After the presentation of the current stand in reconciliation policies and the elaboration of the theoretical argument (2), a description of the Swiss reconciliation policies will follow (3). After comparing the Swiss public policies to other western countries, it will be discussed why Switzerland has lower public reconciliation policies (4).

2 State of the Art regarding Swiss Reconciliation Policy and Theoretical Considerations

Research on family policy is strongly marked by the research on the welfare state. The family policy typologies existing today have their roots in Esping-Andersen's (1990) seminal work on welfare states. In the following years, feminist scholars criticized his work for being gender blind. Several feminist typologies arose including the family and gender dimension inside their methodological framework (Daly and Rake 2003; O'Connor et al. 1999; Sainsbury 1999; Lewis and Ostner 1994; Orloff 1993; O'Connor 1993; Lewis 1992). In more recent years, research has focused on single policy fields that are important to help parents to reconcile family life and paid employment. An overview of this research can be found in Kulawik (2005). Morgan (2006) identifies three main areas that are important to help working parents. These are: care policies, parental leave policies and workplace policies. Scientific work of the last ten years has tried to identify care regimes (e. g. Szelewa and Polakowski 2008; Anttonen and Sipila 1996; Bergqvist 1999; Bettio and Plantenga 2004) or leave regimes by comparing different countries and their public policy regimes. Here, the work of Moss and Deven (2005; 2002; 1999) should be stressed. They started the comparative research on leave policies in Europe and founded the International Network on Leave Policy and Research. This network still reports on the latest news on leave policies in 20 different, mostly European countries. Research on the third subject, family-friendly work place policies is rather underdeveloped compared to the other two research fields. One reason is the role the state is playing in this sector. In leave policies and also in care policies, the state has a longer and more undisputed position in taking over responsibility. In the workspace this is not the same; here the responsibility is more often left to the market: to the unions and to the employers. As the research question to be answered in this chapter is why Switzerland has less public provisions to help parents to combine paid employment and family life, it just focuses on policies that are clearly in the realm of public policies. …

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