Parental Leave Policies in the French Work Family Regime: Innovative Formulation, Disappointing Implementation

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:40 PM
Room: 415
Distributed Paper
Bernard FUSULIER , Psad, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
Chantal NICOLE-DRANCOURT , CNAM, Paris, France
Theoretically, this proposal hinges its analysis around the concept of Work Family Regime - which at the same time draws from the knowledge acquired from large European comparative studies and from those which come from the feminist critique of these works.  It then makes a study of the French Work Family Regime through family policies and, in particular, the formulation and implementation of parental leave.

France has formulated parental leave that is neutral and very innovative in its formulation but which does not fundamentally question, in its implementation, the unequal position of men and women in employment and within the family. Consequently, despite the fact it is very innovative and well founded from the point of view of a better hinge point between Family and Work, the use of the device remains almost exclusively female, puts the employment of women at a disadvantage and reinforces gender inequalities. The world economic crisis, by making available employment and the means of the social investment more scarce, has only reinforced such a dynamic.

In fact, the real sociological question is less to understand how the crisis is putting the brakes on (or even destroying) acquired experience in terms of reconciling working life/family life than to measure the growing discrepancies between social practices and normative frameworks that cause dysfunction and inconsistency phenomena within most contemporary societies. The discrepancy between standards and practices are reinforced against three contradictory phenomena: one that refers to the process of homogenising employment ratios between men and women; a second that refers to the permanence of a sexual allocation of productive and reproductive activities (sexual division of social activities); and a third which expresses the desire of women and men to be able to be reconciled without wearing down their working life and their family life.