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The Time Matrix. Can We Change Work, Family an the (Gendered) Life Course?

Prof. Phyllis Moen

The topic of “work-family” has been path breaking, in that it combines focus on two domains typically studied and legislated separately, even though they are integral and intertwined parts of peoples’ everyday lives. I argue that thus far scholarship and policy on work and family have been too narrowly defined. “Work-family” is mostly an adjective in front of conflict, spillover, or enhancement, depicting the stresses and sometimes the benefits brought about by their intersection. Thus far the focus has been on workers (mostly women) with children at home, not on the work-family experiences of workers and couples at other ages and life stages. Most research has provided cross-sectional and limited snapshots, and has not followed individuals or couples over time. I propose we readdress the “work-family” topic as embedded within a time matrix, consisting of work-day, work week and career clocks at odds with family, personal, and biological clocks. Moreover, all clocks are being transformed by a changing workforce (consisting of women as well as men), new technologies, and a volatile global risk economy. The result? Three fundamental mismatches: a time strain mismatch, a career mystique mismatch, and a risk-safety net mismatch. Most people strategize around work and family as their own private troubles, and not as public issues. Individuals and couples develop adaptive strategies to cope with these mismatches that often perpetuate gender inequality, such as prioritizing husband’s jobs. The key issue is whether governments and employers will open up the clockworks of work and careers to better fit the realities of contemporary life.


Work-Family Reconciliation and Fertility in Europe

Prof. Melinda Mills

Low levels of fertility within some countries in Europe has been linked to a lack of effective work-family reconciliation policies within these societies. This lecture examines how different aspects of work-family reconciliation across Europe impact fertility, and specifically fertility intentions, the entry into parenthood, and the choice to have additional children. The talk also explores strategies, in the form of flexible employment and non-standard schedules that women engage in to both remain in the labour market and realize their fertility and family plans. The impact of how women’s subjective perceptions of control or autonomy over work, job strain and work–family conflict  nfluence fertility intentions is examined first. Here the national-levels of childcare usage and prevalence of part-time work are also taken into account. The impact of the type of women’s occupations is then also linked to fertility behaviour. The focus then shifts to the examination of how non-standard employment schedules – which is work outside of  regular 9 to 5 hours and weekdays – has been used as a strategy for work-family reconciliation. Here the discussion turns to the use of flexible and atypical work schedules as a means for women to schedule their employment around their partner and children. The use of non-standard schedules to enable ‘tag-team parenting’ is also discussed, which appears to enable parents to both remain in the labour market and avoid institutionalized childcare.

Institut für Soziologie
Universität Wien
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1090 Wien

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