“I still strongly believe that women can have it all
(and that men can too).
I believe that we can have it all at
the same time
. But not today, not with the way [the]
economy and society are currently structured.” In an article which
appeared in The Atlantic
in July 2012, American academic Anne-Marie Slaughter reignited a
public debate on reconciling working life and family responsibilities,
both in her own country and beyond.
2. Notwithstanding the many advances made along the path towards
gender equality, a traditional division of men’s and women’s roles
is still widespread in Europe. Thus, while men enjoy a privileged
position on the labour market, women still do the lion’s share in
terms of household responsibilities and care of children and the
3. As a result, reconciling private and working life is harder
for women than for men. This difficulty is compounded by wage inequalities
and a great deal of discrimination in recruitment and working conditions, which
are disincentives to labour force participation by larger numbers
4. Measures are needed to enable everyone so wishing to engage
in paid activity and be able to harmonise this with private and
family life. It is chiefly a matter of creating widely available
and readily accessible personal support services (catering for children,
particularly babies, and the elderly), encouraging the sharing of
family responsibilities within couples, and transforming the organisation
of work so as to introduce features of flexibility (different working
hours, teleworking) without impairing career opportunities.
These measures have been advocated by the Council of Europe
on several occasions, from Recommendation No. R (96) 5 of the Committee
of Ministers to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1769 (2006)
on the need to reconcile work and family life. It is
time to ascertain what initiatives have been taken at European level
and what impact they have had on the economy and society.
6. However, I wish to stress that without a meaningful change
of mentalities within families and society at large, public authorities’
action, however important, will remain insufficient. Like in other
domains, the principle of subsidiarity between public authorities
and civil society is of major importance.
sharing of family responsibilities and its implications for employment
The subject of work-life balance takes up more and
more room in international and national programmes, as noted by
the International Labour Office, which discussed this theme at the
November 2011 meeting of its Governing Body.
This question is taking on growing
interest because of a set of factors, including the rise of atypical
employment, ageing of the population and changing family structures.
As the researcher Roland Pfefferkorn points out, conjugal
relations have changed remarkably over recent decades with the development
of extramarital cohabitation, divorce and single life. But once
women have entered into conjugal and/or family relationships, they
usually find themselves in a domestic context where little has changed
in comparison with the situation many years ago.
The “Second European Quality of Life Survey: Family life and
work” confirmed in 2010 that the participation rate of women and
men in household and family work differed greatly. On average, 80%
of women are involved in this type of work on a daily basis, as
against only 45% of men. The disparity varies from country to country,
from the minimum 17% rate of male participation in domestic chores
in Turkey, to 70% in Sweden.
10. This research also shows that the bulk of the population is
aware of this disparity, given that women’s and men’s replies to
the correlated questions on work sharing in the family are quite
consistent with each other.
According to a survey conducted in the United Kingdom by the
Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), an independent research
institute, eight out of ten women do more domestic work than their
partners. Only 13% of the women interviewed in connection with this
research said that their husband works harder than they do at home.
In France, a study conducted by the Institut national d’études
démographiques in November 2009 found that “Women perform 80% of
household duties. Eight out of ten ‘always’ or usually do the ironing,
seven out of ten prepare the meals, half do the vacuuming and food
shopping, four out of ten do the washing up and the accounts”. The
study also shows that when one or more children come along, the
division alters, with this inequality steadily increasing.
Research carried out at the University of Valladolid from
2008 to 2010 highlights the influence of cultural and traditional
factors on the design and application of reconciliation measures.
It was found that the countries of Mediterranean Europe take a conflicting
attitude to the roles of women and men. While the principle of equality
within the family is widely accepted, the idea that women should
give priority to family responsibilities is nevertheless widespread.
The annual report for 2011 of the Banca d’Italia, Italy’s
central bank, which contains a chapter on women’s role in the economy,
describes a situation of inequality between men and women, especially
where women’s rate of participation on the labour market is concerned.
According to the study, the main reason for this situation is a
lack of services and infrastructure enabling working and family
life to be reconciled, especially for women with very young children.
15. In Italy, 46.5% of women in the 15 to 64 age group are in
employment, namely 21 points below the male rate. The differential
in 1993 was 31 points. The study highlights a constant reduction
in this differential, even during the current economic crisis, for
the negative impact of the crisis is greater on men’s employment
16. “Within families, including those where both spouses work,
household duties and the care of persons are dealt with by women
disproportionately”, the text adds, before concluding that “Differences
in attitude between women and men may give rise to involuntary discrimination”.
Inequalities which still exist in the organisation of work within
the family are invariably reflected on the labour market, including
women’s place on that market.
In order to cope with their many commitments, large numbers
of women accept temporary or part-time jobs or take a career break.
According to the 2011 report of the European Commission on “Progress
on Equality between Women and Men”, almost one third of women with
family responsibilities either have part-time jobs or are not working.
On the one hand, work-life policies are devised as tools for
enhancing gender equality. On the other hand, women who have had
to leave work incur a risk of poverty and social exclusion stemming
from loss of income and the difficulty of resuming employment. Work-life
policies are therefore useful not only for achieving gender equality,
but also, as emphasised by the Confederation of Family Organisations
in the European Union (COFACE), for preventing and combating poverty
and social exclusion.
19. Can women reconcile their working life with their personal
and family life? It would seem to be impossible if we take as our
example Anne-Marie Slaughter, an academic who held a post of high
responsibility at the top of her country’s administration, and who
wrote the article quoted at the beginning of this report. After
spending 18 months working in Hillary Clinton’s State Department,
she decided to leave her post in Washington and return to teaching
at Princeton University, so that she could look after her family
better, especially her teenage children.
20. Yet the answer to this question given by Ms Slaughter in her
article is not entirely negative. Firstly because she did not simply
give up work: she chose to return to an occupation giving her a
greater ability to manage her own time. Secondly, because her thesis
is that women cannot reconcile their family life with just any job,
and that, as things stand, such reconciliation would be possible
in absolute terms if the way in which work is organised were changed.
21. The debate which followed the publication of this article
showed that work-life balance is a more topical subject than ever,
and still perceived as a problem needing to be resolved. However,
a number of women of the younger generation seem less inclined to
sacrifice family responsibilities for professional development.
Some people, even in Europe, have interpreted this as a cultural
decline and a sign of a revival of old ideas about women being “naturally”
destined to run the household. French feminist philosopher Elisabeth Badinter,
in her book “Le Conflit, la femme et la mère”, condemned a “tyranny
In her opinion, contemporary
society puts pressure on women to devote more time to their families.
One example cited was that of the promotion of breastfeeding by
many over-enthusiastic paediatricians.
3. The reconciliation
of personal and working life, a question which also concerns men
The balance in the numbers of working men and women
has changed in recent decades. In 2009, Canada became the first
country where women were in the majority on the labour market.
The same thing happened the following
year in the United States, where, at the same time, three university
degrees in every five were being awarded to women.
In Europe, women have filled six of the eight million new
jobs created since the year 2000.
The economic crisis which has affected
some of the industrialised countries in recent years has contributed
to these developments, for it has had a more severe effect on those
sectors of the economy where the majority of workers are men, such
To conclude from this that modern post-industrial society
is more geared to women and that “the end of men” has arrived
would certainly be an exaggeration.
But the situation of the two sexes in the world of work is becoming
26. The reconciliation of personal and family life with work commitments
is not therefore a matter for women only. The traditional division
of roles between women and men also affects the latter: in practice,
a man trying to carry out his full share of family responsibilities
might well be regarded as insufficiently motivated and involved
in his professional work.
The debate started by Anne-Marie Slaughter was revived a few
months later when she wrote another article, this time on work-life
balance as an issue for men as well.
Numerous accounts by men from different social
and occupational backgrounds demonstrated their desire to reconcile
the private and family sphere with that of work, and their difficulties
in doing so.
and shared responsibility
28. Reconciliation is thus an issue for both women and
men – albeit one more widespread and more urgent among women. I
therefore feel that no purpose is served by emphasising the potential
or existing conflict between the sexes in matters of work organisation.
It is preferable to seek out possible ways of combining and harmonising
the needs and aspirations of both. This is why one concept particularly
close to my heart is that of shared responsibility, the sharing
of responsibilities within the family.
29. The outstanding example of shared responsibility is that of
parents for their children: here we refer to shared parental responsibility,
with the tasks related to the care and upbringing of children being
shared. However, it goes further than this. All family responsibilities,
whether they are household tasks or providing assistance to dependent
persons, the keeping of accounts or dealing with the authorities,
should be shared fairly, where possible equally, within the couple”.
30. “Responsibility” is central to this concept, for it is not
a matter of merely sharing activities. It is increasingly common
for one spouse to “help” the other, but this does not call into
question the roles within the couple. Shared responsibility, on
the contrary, implies that family duties are not all dealt with
by one spouse, but are shared by both.
31. This equal sharing firstly guarantees effective fulfilment
of equality between the spouses. Secondly, and just as importantly,
it places women and men on an equal footing where work is concerned.
Equal commitment within the family makes possible equal opportunities
in terms of access to, the permanence of and progress in the world
of paid work.
32. Shared responsibility is linked to essentially cultural factors
which the law could not impose on individuals. It is nevertheless
both possible and necessary to promote this concept through education
and awareness campaigns.
33. In Spain, campaigns of this kind have been conducted by, among
others, the authorities of the Autonomous Community of Andalusia,
where a publication entitled Guìa para
chicas (Guide for girls) has been circulated to lower
and upper secondary schools. This text gave a clear and simple explanation
of how every member of the family can demand respect and call for
all to make their contribution to family management.
5. Council of Europe
and European Union legal instruments
34. As early as 1996, the Committee of Ministers of the
Council of Europe adopted a recommendation that represents an important
landmark in the reconciliation of working and private life. Recommendation
No. R (96) 5, as well as presenting the situation prevailing at
the time of its adoption, indicates a number of measures needed
to aid reconciliation of work and family life.
35. This text recalls that it is women who most often continue
to bear the principal burden of family responsibilities, and that
insufficient sharing of these responsibilities encourages discrimination
against women on the labour market. It further underlines that women
and men are increasingly stating their determination to share their
family responsibilities more equally, and that numerous obstacles,
notably social and cultural, stand in the way of this.
36. As to the recommended measures “to enable women and men, without
discrimination, to better reconcile their working and family lives”,
the recommendation mentions people’s right to hold or obtain a job
“without being subject to discrimination and, to the extent possible,
without any conflict between their employment and family responsibilities”.
The appendix to the recommendation introduces, inter alia, the principle that “it
is important that workers be able to meet their increasing responsibilities
to other dependent family members, and in particular to their relatives
who are elderly or who have a disability”.
37. The revised European Social Charter (ETS No. 163 (1996)),
in Article 27, addresses the “right of workers with family responsibilities
to equal opportunities and equal treatment”. This article notably
stipulates that the States undertake to apply appropriate measures
“to enable workers with family responsibilities to enter and remain
in employment, as well as to re-enter employment after an absence
due to those responsibilities; to take account of their needs in
terms of conditions of employment and social security; [and] to
develop or promote services, public or private, in particular child
daycare services and other childcare arrangements”.
The Parliamentary Assembly looked into the question of reconciliation
policies in 2006 when it adopted Recommendation 1769 (2006)
on the need to reconcile work and family life. This
text firstly recommends that member States fully implement Committee
of Ministers Recommendation No. R (96) 5.
39. The specific measures recommended comprise genuine wage parity
for women and men, the introduction of flexible working conditions,
adequate remuneration/compensation during maternity leave, the introduction
of paid paternity leave, together with paid parental leave available
to the father and mother, and guaranteed places in day nurseries
for children whose parents so desire.
40. The Lisbon Strategy, the main plank of the European Union’s
economic and development policy adopted in 2000, set the objective
of achieving a female employment rate of 60% by 2010, with care
facilities for at least 33% of children under 3 years of age and
90% of children between age 3 and compulsory school age, in order to
promote greater reconciliation of family and working life as well
as greater gender equality.
41. In 2009, only nine member countries had achieved the objective
of 33% of children under 3 in official care facilities, and seven
had reached the 90% target for children over 3. As for the female
employment rate, 11 of the 27 European Union countries were at 60%
in 2010. The rate rose from an average of 57.3% in Europe in 2000
to 62.1% in 2010 (compared to 75.1% for men).
42. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, on
which the Treaty of Lisbon confers legally binding force, prohibits
all gender-based discrimination and establishes the right to equality
between women and men in all spheres.
The application of this equality principle is supported by
the Commission’s Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015.
This identifies specific measures to reconcile working and family
life, such as the improvement of care facilities for children below
compulsory school age, as key actions for gender equality.
The Commission has also laid down the Europe 2020 strategy,
whose aims include an employment rate of 75% for women and men between
20 and 64 years of age (only Sweden has to date achieved this objective).
For its part, the Council of the European Union, in March
2011, adopted a New European Pact for gender equality which places
work-life policies in the foreground.
This pact emphasises the importance
of promoting better balance between family life and work for women
and men alike.
46. Directive 2010/18/EU takes the same line by extending compulsory
parental leave from three to four months (a minimum of one month
not being transferable from one parent to the other, in order to
encourage fathers to take care of their children). It also provides
for protection against unfavourable treatment of employees taking
their parental leave.
6. Overview of work-life
policies in European countries
6.1. Parental leave
47. Parental leave is an essential means of reconciling
working and family life, and the trend is towards its extension.
Mr Andrea Rigoni (Italy, ALDE) is currently preparing a report on
“Parental leave as a way to foster gender equality”. I would refer
you to this report for a more detailed analysis.
48. In Europe, there is a trend towards the extension of parental
leave. In the Netherlands, it increased from 13 to 26 weeks in 2009,
and in Estonia, where the parental leave system has been exceptionally
generous since 2004, there are 575 days of paid leave (of which
the first 140 can only be claimed by mothers).
49. However, the great majority of beneficiaries are women, thereby
interrupting their careers and perpetuating occupational segregation,
while the leave taken by men is usually much shorter. In 2002, Sweden established
a system providing for 13 months of parental leave, with two months
reserved for fathers. Although this constitutes a definite advance,
on average fathers only take 22% of the total days of parental leave.
Finland has also established a “Daddy Month”, to which 12 working
days were added in 2010.
50. In Luxembourg, the great majority of the six months of full-time
parental leave is taken by women. Indeed, in 2009, 2.15% of the
parents who had received parental leave were men.
51. In 2007, Germany provided new allowances for parents taking
parental leave (Elterngeld) and,
despite budgetary restrictions in 2011, this system has resulted
in more fathers taking their parental leave.
52. The development of paternity leave is an important step towards
greater equality in the taking on by parents of responsibilities
for their children. In Spain, the law on gender equality introduced
paternity leave of 13 days in 2007, in addition to the two days
previously granted to fathers. The Spanish Government has undertaken
to extend this leave to four weeks in 2013. In Poland, it was increased
from one to two weeks in 2012. Turkey has also begun to introduce
paternity leave, albeit of only three days and confined to the public sector,
as has Greece, which offers fathers two days of paternity leave.
53. But there are still a number of countries not providing any
paternity leave at all, and others like Estonia where the allowances
prescribed for paternity leave have been suspended until the end
of 2012 because of the economic crisis.
54. In Denmark, the great majority of fathers use their paternity
leave, but this leave only constitutes 8% of the aggregate maternity,
paternity and parental leave taken by both parents. Moreover, since
January 2009, payment of compensation for paternity leave has also
been suspended because of the economic crisis.
6.2. Care services
55. Although systems are changing, a traditional view
of the role of men and women prevails in many countries.
56. One of the European Commission’s recommendations was therefore
to promote reconciliation of working and family life by providing
affordable child care services. In Denmark, in fact, 79% of the
mothers taking parental leave return to work as before, and the
high quality of child care services is an important factor.
57. In 2009 in Cyprus, only 22% of children under 3 years of age
were enrolled in an official day care programme. Although that is
below the European average, in this country the family is the nucleus
of society and culture, so many grandparents look after their grandchildren.
In Greece, only 11% of children under 3 years of age are registered
with care services, well below the European average of 27% in 2009.
58. Childcare services are highly developed in countries such
as Sweden, which has set a statutory limit for nursery charges (in
proportion to parents’ income and number of children), and where
public provision for childcare is guaranteed to all parents and
free for up to 15 hours per week for children aged 3 to 6. Consequently,
63% of children under 3 and 94% of children aged 3 to 6 are enrolled
in official childcare services.
59. In Finland, every child under 7 is unconditionally entitled
to be registered with a care facility, and pre-primary education
is free of charge. In addition, parents who do not use municipal
childcare services are entitled to extra paid leave after the end
of parental leave, enabling them to care for their children under
3 without giving up work.
60. Italy also has a free, albeit non-compulsory, childcare system
in the public sector, in which, as in Denmark and Germany, 90% of
children aged 3 to 6 are enrolled.
In the Russian Federation, childcare facilities are being
restructured. The country has a large network of pre-school institutions.
However, these are still insufficient, particularly in rural areas,
due to increasing demand.
Ukraine has a similar situation, with only 56% of children
attending childcare facilities. The Ministry of Education, which
supplied this data, indicates that the number of pre-school institutions
(about 15 500 in 2010) is increasing by 200 to 300 units yearly.
63. Since 2010, a year of nursery care has been provided free
of charge in Ireland, and for low-income families the improved Community
Childcare Subvention Programme introduced in 2010 enables parents benefiting
from this programme to pay only about 33% of school attendance costs.
64. In France, childcare services are of high quality and have
long, flexible opening hours. However, it is hard to find places
in nurseries, so the government undertook to create 200 000 additional
places for children under 3 by 2012.
65. Likewise, the Austrian Government invested € 45 billion between
2008 and 2010 in the extension of nurseries, and since 2011 has
aimed to create 5,000 additional places each year.
66. In Luxembourg, the greater ease of combining work and family
life is due to the establishment of Maisons Relais in
much greater numbers (110 in 2009), and also thanks to their flexibility.
67. The trend is thus towards improvement and extension of childcare
services to save mothers especially from interrupting or curbing
their careers. A law of 2006 requires all local authorities in the
United Kingdom to provide sufficient childcare to meet the needs
of employed parents. The government has set up Sure Start Children’s
Centres to provide help and advice to parents and carers.
7. Legislative models
68. Many countries have introduced legislation to enhance
gender equality at the workplace as well as laws permitting better
reconciliation of work and family life through more flexible working
69. In Spain, the law reforming workers’ status, approved in 1999,
is specifically called the “Law on reconciling family and working
life”. It introduces or reforms measures such as maternity and paternity
leave, breastfeeding leave and reduced working hours for family
70. In the Netherlands, a project was introduced in 2006 whereby
employees may save 10% of their annual income, up to a maximum saving
of 210%, to finance a future period of unpaid leave. This affords
some flexibility, but only 4% of employees avail themselves of it
because the project is complicated to implement. The government
also introduced an “income-dependent combination tax credit” in
2009 for the lower-earning partner in order to encourage him or
her to work additional hours.
71. In Belgium, parents of children under 12 years of age cannot
be asked to perform overtime or to work at night or weekends unless
they give their consent. In the same spirit, Austria in 2010 established
childcare allowances tied to parents’ income in order to give them
more opportunities to stay away from the labour market for a certain
period in order to care for their child.
72. In an effort to achieve more balanced representation of the
sexes in decision-making posts, France enacted a law in January
2011 concerning balanced representation of women and men on administrative
and supervisory boards, and concerning occupational equality, progressively
introducing quotas in a move towards feminisation of the management
bodies of major enterprises.
8. Good practices
73. The Council of Europe member States have also developed
differing practices regarding reconciliation of working and family
In Belgium in 2009, the government adopted a “family plan
for the self-employed”, aimed at narrowing the gap between the welfare
benefits available to self-employed workers and those for employees.
The plan’s provisions include the
improvement of maternity leave and introduction of parental leave
also open to fathers, equal family benefits for children of employees
and self-employed persons, suitable nurseries and childminders and
the possibility of obtaining a loan without security on favourable
In Switzerland, the Canton of Bern has adopted a plan emphasising
the ongoing development of childcare places. Childminding facilities
and “day parents” are subsidised by the Canton, enabling families
to pay reduced rates. Since 1 August 2010, municipalities have been
required to establish an all-day school module.
76. The gender equality bonus in Sweden, introduced in 2008, is
intended to make it easier for mothers to return to work after childbirth
and to encourage fathers to take more parental leave so that they
can take a more balanced share of the responsibilities relating
77. Sweden also created in 2003 the Golden Dummy Prize for enterprises
that make allowances for family life, which is attracting a growing
number of candidates (80 in 2010). This type of enterprise is also
encouraged in Flemish-speaking Belgium where the Gezinsbond (league of families)
was launched in 2009 to create a forum for promoting a business
culture that allows for family life and to enable enterprises to
78. Many practices for improving childcare services have also
been developed. In Estonia, the Estonian development partnership
“Children taken care of, mothers at work” has created new care services
since 2005. The Caisse nationale des allocations familiales in France
created the Monenfant.fr website in 2009, which provides advice,
guidance and solutions to parents to help them to find services
to care for their child.
9. Corporate initiatives
79. Reconciliation of working and private life does not
depend solely on legislative measures or on structures and services
provided by the State. In a number of cases, public and private
companies together with public authorities have also adopted measures
to help their employees manage their working time and personal commitments
A survey published in 2011 by a research centre, the Italian
Centre for Social Responsibility (ICSR),
shows that the good practices adopted
by these economic players include:
- working time and workplace flexibility (flexitime, part-time,
flexible leave programmes);
- maternity and paternity support policies (leave for family
reasons, reintegration into work after extended leave, creation
of nurseries or agreements with external facilities);
- training of staff and internal communication.
81. The study also shows that most large and medium-sized enterprises
perceive their employees’ well-being as a strategic asset, making
it possible to improve productivity and the quality of the goods
and services offered. Over half (55%) of the organisations participating
in the survey assert that good practices regarding reconciliation
of private and working life have improved the in-house atmosphere.
This has been reflected in relations between staff members and between
staff and managers, with greater employee satisfaction and motivation.
82. This research also highlights the fact that the current economic
crisis is likely to encourage enterprises to alter their internal
organisation by introducing measures to reconcile private and working
life. There are two reasons why this unlooked-for effect could arise
from the situation of low growth and scant financial resources in
most countries. Firstly, human capital is becoming the most important
resource for the success of a business. Consequently, enterprises
decide to make an effort to increase the level of employees’ satisfaction
in order to motivate them and secure their loyalty. Secondly, in
a difficult climate marked by tougher competition, some enterprises
would be prepared to try out major changes in their internal organisation
as part of their drive for productivity.
The French experiment with the Observatoire de la parentalité
en entreprise confirms that the industrial world is paying closer
attention to this subject. This centre for monitoring parenthood,
set up in 2008 on the basis of a “Parents at work charter”, is supported
by 388 signatory enterprises and associations which have undertaken inter alia
- facilitate the reconciliation
of working and private life for employees with children;
- adjust working conditions for pregnant women;
- guard against and eliminate discriminatory practices towards
employees with children.
84. In the course of its work of gathering, analysing and disseminating
information on the work-life balance of persons with parental responsibilities,
the Observatoire has published numerous documents. These include a
teleworking guide and a guide to nurseries and enterprises, designed
as “aids to thought and action”. Indeed, they provide useful information
for enterprises wishing to introduce new forms of organisation that
meet the needs of employees with children.
85. The traditional division of roles between women and
men is a major obstacle on the path to equality. While inequalities
in the labour market are gradually decreasing, women still have
to shoulder most family responsibilities. As a result, the difficulty
of balancing family and working life means that women cannot fully enjoy
86. At the same time, the predominant mindset in the current world
of work, still to some extent reflecting sexist stereotypes, and
work organisation which has not changed sufficiently, are also preventing
men from fulfilling all their responsibilities within the family.
87. Programmes for balancing family and working life are therefore
of major importance in policies on gender equality and quality of
88. It is essential that our societies make it easier to reconcile
these two areas of life. The measures required to achieve this include
new forms of work organisation (flexibility in terms of working
hours and places of work), access to personal care services (particularly
for children and the elderly) and financial support for families. Such
measures require the co-ordination of all stakeholders in the world
of work, both public and private.
89. The current economic climate, which is characterised by weak
growth and a shortage of financial resources, should not delay the
adoption of work-life balance policies. On the contrary, there is
an increasingly urgent need for such policies. The current crisis,
which has affected economic sectors which employ larger numbers
of men, has had the effect of reducing the inequality in the employment
rates of the two sexes. However, the “levelling down” of inequalities
should not be accepted. Enabling both women and men better to balance
their working life with family responsibilities would help to limit
the negative effects of the crisis. Increased participation by both
sexes in the world of work would represent a factor for growth in
the economy as a whole and for more balanced development.
90. Work-life balance policies are necessary to prevent and combat
poverty and social exclusion. Parents, in most cases mothers, who
are obliged to give up their jobs because of working hours incompatible
with their family commitments, are more vulnerable to poverty and
91. The possibility of balancing family and work must therefore
be one of the main objectives of all gender equality policies. The
aim is to combat inequalities between women and men, establish conditions
that allow parents to find fulfilment both at home and at work,
increase economic growth and improve social cohesion in society
as a whole.