Women and Employment
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Women and Employment

Changing Lives and New Challenges

Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Shirley Dex and Heather Joshi

How is women’s employment shaped by family and domestic responsibilities? This book, written by leading experts in the field, examines twenty-five years of change in women’s employment and addresses the challenges facing women today.
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Chapter 11: Work–Family Balance Policies: Issues and Development in the UK 1997–2005 in Comparative Perspective

Jane Lewis


Jane Lewis INTRODUCTION: WORK–FAMILY BALANCE AS A POLICY PROBLEM The way in which adult men and women balance their family and employment responsibilities was historically considered to be a private responsibility. However, many continental European countries accepted a role for the state in helping to ‘reconcile’ work and family long before the UK, which has only begun to see this issue as territory for state intervention since 1998. All Western countries have experienced more public debate about the issue of work–family balance, including the USA where the state has intervened least but where literature on the ‘crisis of care’ and the ‘time squeeze’ is most common.1 And in European Union (EU) member states over the past decade this policy field has been one of the few to show expansion cross-nationally (Daly 2005). Indeed, what is happening at the family and the household level in terms of changes in the behaviour of men and women and the nature of the contributions they make to family life is increasingly driving policy. For household-level change has been linked to a number of interrelated concerns about changes in family form and family instability, about low fertility and population ageing, and about the welfare of children, alongside the perceived need to maximise male and female labour market participation in order to promote competitiveness and growth. The relationship between paid work and social provision has always been central to the development of modern welfare states. At the beginning of the twentieth century the nature...

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