Social policies and data

Family-Friendly Policy Can Generate a Range of Benefits to Society


06/11/2002 - New OECD research shows that getting the right policy balance between work and family life will provide a wide range of benefits to society. Employment will rise; families will have more secure sources of income; gender equity will be strengthened; and child development promoted.

Babies and Bosses: Reconciling Work and Family Life, an OECD study of parents participation in the labour market in Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands, shows how family-friendly policies such as childcare, child-related leave and tax/benefit policies can help create a better balance between work and family-life.

Access to affordable good-quality childcare is a critical factor. Many more very young children are in formal childcare in Denmark than in the two other countries. Subsidies are high, most women work full-time and parents are confident about the high quality of formal childcare, reflecting the long experience of using collective childcare arrangements in Nordic countries. In Australia, the formal childcare support is less generous to parents than in Denmark, but more flexible, giving parents some choice in how best to manage their childcare needs. In the Netherlands, formal childcare is largely unsubsidised and can be prohibitively expensive for families with more than one pre-school-age child. Hence, Dutch mothers often work on a part-time basis or give up their jobs if they have more than one child.

In all three countries, paid child-related leave benefits have aroused a lively policy debate. In Denmark, paid leave now gives parents the opportunity to care for their child until about the first birthday. Some employers provide paid leave in Australia, but there is no universally available payment that is contingent on a parent taking leave. The report argues that it is surprising that paid parental leave benefits, which only help parents during the first weeks or months of a child's life, attract so much public attention and effort. The problems parents face in balancing their work and family life go far beyond the period when their children are very young. The Netherlands has addressed this issue, at least in part, by providing all parents with greater control over their working hours.

In all three countries, the existing workplace culture still places a penalty on fathers using family-friendly benefits. Hence, mothers make the greatest use of leave arrangements, part-time work and flexible working hours. This can damage their career development when compared to men, and perpetuates existing gender inequalities at the labour market. More effort is needed to change attitudes of employers and employees towards men who take advantage of such arrangements.

To obtain a copy of the report, journalists should contact the OECD's Media Relations Division . For further information, journalists are invited to contact Willem Adema, OECD's Social Policy Division. The report is on sale through the Online Bookshop.

"Babies and Bosses - Reconciling Work and Family Life" (volume 1: Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands)
OECD, Paris 2002
Available in electronic format (pdf)
Euros 29; US$29
ISBN 92-64-19843-1 (81 02 11 1)


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