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Council calls for better support of reconciliation of work and family life across the EU

01/07/2011

At the Council for Employment and Social Affairs on 17 June, ministers discussed policies and measures which promote the reconciliation of work and family life in the context of demographic change. The conclusions it adopted aim to promote policies favouring families and work-life balance in the context of addressing the demographic challenge and in order to support the Europe 2020 strategy.

The ministers stressed it was key to provide greater support for reconciliation measures which would not only enable women and men to better balance work and family life, but also contribute to achieving major policy objectives of the EU, in terms of growth and jobs. 

Boosting female employment is crucial

The Council reminded that an ageing European population will have a major impact on Europe's society and economy. To face the demographic challenges and to respond to labour market needs, it is crucial to meet the target of a female employment rate of 75% set by the EU. But this goal cannot be achieved without sustainable family policies which guarantee gender equality at work and a more family-friendly work-life balance in the labour market.

The Council further stressed that demographic challenges must be met with coherent, long-term strategies from EU governments. The key role that the European Alliance for Families can play in exchange of knowledge on family-friendly policies between EU Member states was also highlighted.

Flexible working and quality childcare identified as key for a better work-life balance

In the conclusions adopted by the Council, several measures were proposed to tackle barriers to reconciling professional and private life. These measures included:The promotion of flexible working arrangements and various forms of leave for both women and men (parental leave, possibility to work part-time);

  • The sufficient supply of affordable, high-quality childcare services and care facilities for other dependants;
  • Encouraging employers to offer their employees childcare and other forms of family support;
  • Taking into consideration the needs of families, and in particular those which are most vulnerable, including large or single-parent families.

Active participation and involvement of men in reconciliation measures is also seen as vital for reaching the work-life balance, since both women and men could benefit from family-friendly employment policies and from equal sharing of unpaid work and of responsibilities in the household. In this regard, due attention should be paid to tackling gender stereotypes.

Finally, it was stressed that it is important to bring together the measures taken and progress made in the context of the existing instruments, resources and bodies in order to enhance mutual learning. The ministers highlighted the key role of the European Alliance for Families, through which an important exchange of best practices among the Member States takes place.

Maternity leave

The Council also took note of a progress report concerning the recent work on the proposal to amend directive on the health and safety of pregnant workers and of workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding. Several ministers expressed their concerns on the Commission proposal and the opinion of the Parliament at first reading.

Some ministers, given the diverging views, advocated that the Council should consider not continuing its work on this topic, while others stressed that the work should continue.

 

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