What Happened with Our Plans? Plans and Behaviour of First Time Dual-Earner Couples in Spain

Friday, July 18, 2014: 6:30 PM
Room: 413
Oral Presentation
María José GONZÁLEZ , Demography, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain
Irene LAPUERTA , Departamento de Trabajo Social, Universidad Pública de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain
Teresa MARTÍN GARCÍA , Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Madrid, Spain
Marta SEIZ , Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Madrid, Spain
Most studies show that the arrival of the first child produces a new gender balance within the couple, and frequently initiates long-lasting gender inequalities. This paper investigates how first time parents deal with the reconciliation problem (combining paid and unpaid work), which are the consequences of adopting different reconciliation strategies (use of family policies, informal networks and couples’ time) on gender inequalities, and to what extent different strategies are based on individual attitudes and societal constraints in Spain. This study has two peculiarities. The first one is the sample selection. We interview couples which had a fairly egalitarian division of labour when they were expecting the first child, and we interview them again one and a half year later; when most couples have already made the decision to return to paid work. The second one is the historical moment in which the interviews were conducted, marked by a deep economic crisis and a sharp weakening of men’s working conditions. The study is based on a sample of 33 egalitarian dual-earner couples interviewed two times firstly in 2011 and secondly in 2013. Results indicate that mothers elaborate more realistic expectations during pregnancy about their chances to combine work and care. Men more often express dissatisfaction with work-life balance and a greater gap between ideals and reality, without really feeling much remorse as they feel that their arrangements are fully justified by their job constrictions and the economic crisis. This study highlights the importance of a good policy design in order to favour gender balance over the life course, even in the worst socio-economic circumstances.