We speak to Heather Boushey about her book: Finding Time: the economics of work-life conflict and Maureen Conway, Vice President of the Aspen Institute and Executive Director of the Institute's Economic Opportunities Program (EOP).
To use a term Heather employed in her Essay on the Democracy Journal entitled Home Economics, the solution we all know families need is not exactly a Pie in the Sky. In other words, researchers, civil society, families and a number of countries have pinpointed exactly the types of policies and services that need to be in place to improve.... so many things.
Society undergoing profound changes
Readers of our Blog are quite familiar with the major societal shifts happening around us, one of which is the increasing participation of women on the labour market. The single male breadwinner model is becoming something of the past, as women want to work and also need to work. As much as society is changing, the labour market, and all the social and employment policies around this trend are not. So this is why in 2016 we still need to discuss the absolute necessity of affordable, accessible and quality childcare, and increasingly elder care services. Whereas women not only have fewer children in the developed countries, but also later then before (creeping towards 30, with Japan being at 30), many working women (and men) have small children and ageing parents at the same time, and in addition the baby boomers still active on the labour market have ageing parents, often with chronic illnesses. So care needs to be put on the agenda of policy makers, employers and trade unions, and solutions need to be sought jointly to make them sustainable.
The Economics of Work-Life conflict
We have already announced Heather Boushey's book on our Must-read books on work-life balance Blog article, and here you can hear from Heather herself, in conversation with Maureen Conway of the Aspen Institute about her new book, Finding Time - the Economics of Work-Life conflict. The premise of the book is very straight-forward: work-life conflict is a cost for everyone: it is a burden and a cost for families, for employers, for the economy as a whole and for society. Heather argues that resolving work–life conflicts is as vital for individuals and families as it is essential for realising the country’s productive potential. Paid parental leaves, permission for time-off for care responsibilities (which may even include self-care), flexible work and quality care services for children, dependants and the elderly are the cornerstones of a caring society.
Work-Life supports as equalisers
Maureen stresses during our conversation a very important point. These measures need to be spread equally among all income groups and genders. What we could observe last year in the high-tech firms of Silicon Valley, namely unlimited leave, or 1-year paid parental leaves... only apply to a handful of hyper-specialised employees. Not even the canteen staff in those companies. These measures have the great potential of fighting poverty and reducing inequalities. Offering these policy measures and services in a mix benefit everyone.
Single parents, commuting from one part of the city to the other for example would greatly benefit from better and more effective childcare solutions. Shift workers, agency workers need predictable schedules and flexible care solutions. New fathers need to be supported in growing into their parenting roles which in turn will also support mothers in their worker role.
There is a definite business case, but even beyond, a real case for the economy as whole. The economy is not only about the business sector, and whether businesses are profitable. We need to move away from the scarcity thinking of these policies and services being “nice-to have”. A successful economy is when we can have both a successful business sector, and also having a successful civic sector, families and consumers. We need to shift the paradigm from looking at childcare and healthcare as investment in a future for successful work, instead of expenditure in the short-term.