Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Families, Care and Work in European Mediterranean Countries: Findings and Lessons from a Comparative Analysis of Work-Life Balance Policies

Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Families, Care and Work in European Mediterranean Countries: Findings and Lessons from a Comparative Analysis of Work-Life Balance Policies

Article excerpt

1. Labor market and family composition: trends in European Mediterranean Countries

In the last decade the socio-economic context in all European countries has deeply changed, as a consequence of significant transformations in labor market as well as in family-management. So, the difficulties in balancing work and family life have become more visible and problematic (Bianchi, Milkie, 2010; Crespi, Rossi, 2013). In particular, the "reconciliation" issue (European Commission, 2005) has become a key issue in European employment policy as the result of several factors. First of all, the increased participation of women in labor market and, therefore, lower availability of women for caring tasks (Lewis, 2009). Secondly, the increase of non standard or flexible job situations with their irregularity, unpredictability and insecurity (Bauman, 2005), which has influenced the private lives, regarding both the fragmentary transition to adulthood of young generations, as well the freedom of choice in terms of family formation. A third important aspect refers to the increased number of dual-earners families (Pfau-Effinger, 2005), where both partners are working full time, or where a single parent has to combine a professional activity and look after one or several children. Moreover, the recent economic crisis has hit labor markets full-on: all EU Member States were affected, with different timing and intensity but, generally, the crisis has lead to increasing unemployment and rising part-time in all economical sectors.

In this article we'll focus on five European Mediterranean countries: France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey. They share some common aspects in their welfare systems1, and they have been particularly affected by the actual economic crisis. So, such national contexts represent emblematic casesin order to analyze the impact of the recession on work-life balance policies and practices.

In 2010 the EU-27 employment rate for persons aged 15-64 is 64,1% (Eurostat, 2012). In all the considered countries the employment rates are lower, shifting from 46,3% in Turkey to 63,8% in France. Considering gender differences, the EU-27 employment rate gender gap2 is equal to 11,9 pp: only in France we find a lower data (8,4 pp), while in the other countries values are higher, from 12,4 pp in Spain to 40,5 pp in Turkey. Similar considerations emerge observing the activity rate, which is 71% in EU-27, 77,6% for males and 64,4% for females, with a clear gender gap (13,2 pp), particularly observable in the Mediterranean area, still highly variable, from 8,8 pp in France to 44,9 pp in Turkey. Finally, EU-27 data related to unemployment rates don't show significant differences between male and female; specifically referring to each country, the highest unemployment rate gender gaps are in Greece (-6,3 pp) and in Italy (- 2,5 pp), while the lowest are in Turkey (-0,1 pp, tab. 1).

One of the most significant change occurred in labor force composition in the last decade is the growing number of flexible workers. The onset of the crisis has accelerated this trend, deeply increasing gender differences. In 2010, 19,2% of employees in the EU-27 have worked part-time (Eurostat, 2012, tab. 2): 31,9% females vs 8,7% males (with a significant gender gap, equal to 23,2 pp). Focusing on the analyzed countries, part-time gender gap is higher than the EU average just in Italy (23,5 pp) and in France (23,4 pp). On the other hand, fixed-term employment has increased steadily in the years before the crisis, but the trend seems to be changed in 2008 and has continued downward in 2010. The EU-27 registers a share of 14% of employees in 2010: among the analyzed countries, the highest percentage of temporary contracts is in Spain (24,9%) and in France (15,9%).In the other observed countries the values are lower than the EU average. Finally, as observed regarding part-time jobholders, temporary contracts are mostly diffused among women rather than men. …

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