Reconciling Work and Family in a Multi-Active Society

Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 5A G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Distributed Paper
Bernard FUSULIER, IACCHOS, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
The feminisation of the labour market and the persisting inequalities between men and women; precarisation at work; flexibilisation of work and working hours; the geographic movement of people; the diversification of family models; the aging population; the narrowing of intra-familial and community support networks; individualism; the value of children’s well-being; the reconfiguration of spatial and temporal borders by information and communication technologies — these are among the wide-ranging factors that make work-family conciliation not only a problem faced by many people, but also a challenge that today’s societies must find a way to surmount.

Institutions and governments are aware of this. Already, in the 1990s, the European Commission placed on its agenda the topic of ‘reconciliation of work and family life’. The European Directive on parental leave adopted in 1996 constituted a strong signal in the countries of the European Union. In Belgium, many policies were pursued, including measures regarding leave of absences for family or time entitlement/career pause reasons, and those involving support structures for early childhood or services titles that enable externalising certain domestic tasks.

Still, we must acknowledge that these measures are ultimately corrections to concrete problems with work-family interface, but do not manage to provide a satisfactory, lasting overall solution. Why? Our argument is that these measures do not address the problem’s root causes, that is, the way that productive functions (production of goods and services necessary to existence) and reproductive functions (the biological reproduction of humanity and its workforce) are societally given shape and direction, which we call the work-family regime. At present, we are not only witnessing the erosion of labour society but a related crisis in the work-family regime.

For this contribution, we must reimagine the system of work-family interface by referring to a scenario showing another normativity: the organisation of a multi-active society.