Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Work at Home, Home at Work: Difficulties in Achieving Work-Life Balance in Selected European Countries

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Work at Home, Home at Work: Difficulties in Achieving Work-Life Balance in Selected European Countries

Article excerpt

Introduction

Changes occurring in contemporary societies, remarkable technological progress and frantic pace of life make it increasingly challenging to reconcile the needs and expectations belonging to specific life roles. The most significant imbalances are observed between family and work. The subject literature refers to this specific type of balancing in fulfilling different roles as work-life balance. From the point of view of an individual, work-life balance means ability to prioritise properly between work and other areas of life: home, family, health, social activity, private interests, etc. Balance between them is achieved when work does not substitute home or family life and vice versa: when the regular life is not at work's expense (Daniels).

From the state's perspective, reconciling work and family life is the domain of three aspects of social policy: employment, family and gender equality policy. The difficulties in reconciling the two basic areas of human activity require specific countermeasures employed by all possible entities: state, local authorities, companies, and, finally, family members who should support one another in sharing duties and roles in an optimum manner.

The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that the problem of reconciling work and family life is of global reach, particularly acute in Western societies. It is also to present differences between selected countries in the manner in which they endeavour to face this challenge. In particular, I am presenting the situation of Poland in comparison with selected European countries. Using Korpi's classification, I attempt to prove that Poland does not match any of Korpi's models and, therefore, that it represents a different, namely fourth, type of family model. I form a thesis that, in comparison with the other analysed countries, in Poland it is most difficult to integrate work and family life. In my opinion, it results from, on the one hand, the so-called mental heritage of communism (Mrozowicki et al. 2013), that is, from a lack of ability to adapt to changes which obviously follow neoliberal globalisation. Among these changes we should count flexibility of work, initiative (entrepreneurship) and individual readiness for mobility. On the other hand, the situation in Poland regarding work-life balance is also a consequence of the structure of family models still prevailing in Poland. The traditional and the mixed model are more frequently realised in practice (26% and 32% respectively) than it was indicated in declarations in which the partnership model was recalled more frequently (CBOS [Public Opinion Research Centre] 2010,2012). Another fact worth mentioning is that the difficulties in achieving work-life balance result from lack of a developed complete model of family-oriented policy. Such lack of a coherent model causes that there is not enough support for families on the institutional level (regarding, for example, children day-care, especially nurseries and kindergartens). Neither there is enough motivation for employers: we mean particularly appropriate actions encouraging them to facilitate reconciliation of these two spheres of life through, for instance, flexible forms of employment that create better conditions for integrating family life and work. Certainly these arguments do not display the whole list of possible reasons for a worse situation in Poland in comparison with the selected European countries, however, they do seem the most important factors in this case.

In the context of the discussed subject it is worth to add that hitherto prevailing comparative analyses concerning these issues did not take Poland into consideration, while the works regarding Poland did not assume a wider, international context. This is only a fragmentary understanding of work-life balance which, in a broader context, concerns also self-actualization or taking care of dependants (these may be children, but also elderly parents). …

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