The Family Platform, a consortium of twelve organisations put together to articulate key family research and policy issues, has identified seven priorities for further research at the European Union and national levels: care; life course and transitions; ‘doing family’ (i.e. the managing everyday family life); migration and mobility; inequalities and insecurities; media and new information technologies; and family policies.
Recommendations for the seven areas are set out in detail in a wide-ranging 125-page report, which is entitled 'A Research Agenda on Families and Family Wellbeing for Europe'. The report is the result of work carried out by more than 170 civil society representatives, policy-makers, and scientific experts from all over Europe and beyond.
"The subject of care was the topic of greatest concern, as rising life expectancy, improvements in health care and the high costs of health systems have lead to changing demands for care," says the report. "Due to the rising number of frail elderly people, care deficits are likely to increase." Against this backdrop, the report suggests comparing the current care provision situation across the EU according to different types of care recipient (e.g. children, the elderly, people with temporary care needs and people with disabilities). It also calls for more research on how information technologies can assist care-givers and encourage the independence of care-receivers. The issue of migrants is also raised by the report, which notes that a growing proportion of care workers are immigrants to the EU. Here, the report suggests looking at areas such as the legal status of migrant carers (and the fight against illegal employment), guaranteed minimum income schemes and minimum wages, the affordability of care services in general, and the quality of the care provided.
The report points out that the management of families has become more complicated and ambitious as less time is spent within the home and different timetables have to be organised. "Doing family is related to the question of how families divide or reconcile paid and unpaid work. This, in turn, is linked to gender equality, as most of the latter is done by women (e.g. care work)," it says. The report calls for comparable information from all member states and says that this "needs to be based on reliable approaches to measuring unpaid work such as household tasks and childcare". Measurement of unpaid work and the material situation of families are two areas cited as examples where advanced indicators could be developed. "The implementation of common and standardised indicators in Europe-wide research is as essential as the inclusion of all the member states and the expansion of research to include candidate countries," says the report. "It would be helpful to establish a co-ordinating body, which drives this development forward and monitors compliance with these standards."
The report also suggests improving corporate social responsibility, with ideas including a family-friendly charter on which employer and employees within a company agree jointly and integrating family-friendliness into a company's business plan. "Policy support for firms is crucial," stresses the report. "The results of a survey (European Company Survey on Reconciliation of Work and Family Life, published in 2010 by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Seniors Citizens, Women and Youth) analysing family-friendliness in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Poland and Sweden showed that companies often complain about receiving too little support from the state for the implementation of family-friendly measures."