Final Report of the EU Framework V project Gender, Parenthood and the Changing European Workplace (Transitions).

Lewis, Suzan and Smithson, Janet (2006) Final Report of the EU Framework V project Gender, Parenthood and the Changing European Workplace (Transitions). Project Report. Research Institute for Health and Social Change (RIHSC).

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Abstract

This project extends understanding of the changing contexts in which young parents negotiate the transition to parenthood, based on policy analysis and an international literature review in eight European states and empirical work in seven countries. The overall objective was to examine qualitatively how young European women and men negotiate motherhood and fatherhood and workfamily boundaries and how this impacts on their well-being, in the context of different national welfare state regimes, substantial organisational change, and family and employer support. Eleven organisational case studies were conducted in private (mostly finance) and public (social services) sector workplaces, followed by home based biographical interviews with selected parents and some of their partners. New parents in this study managed work and care in particularly intense, competitive and pressured contexts amid rapid workplace changes and especially the increasingly demanding workloads reported in all the case study organisations. This is compounded by an intensification of parenting as well as of work, as parents in all countries are expected to put growing amounts of effort and time into parenting activities. Nevertheless, the study also highlighted the positive aspects of paid work for many new mothers and fathers who reported their enjoyment of challenging work and contact with colleagues. National and organisational policies to support employed parents are undermined both by current workplace practices associated with work intensification and, in many contexts, concerns for future job opportunities in rapidly changing job climates. Although the right to ask for flexible working, and longer parental leave entitlements, especially for fathers, are increasingly enshrined in legislation in many countries, parents are often in practice prevented from working flexibly by heavy workloads, or by concerns about their perceived commitment to the job. More important than policies alone, is support from line managers, particularly in the countries with fewer supportive national regulations. However, colleague support also emerged as significant in contemporary workplaces. National policies and provisions interact with the formal and informal workplace policies, practices and cultures and economic conditions to support and constrain gender expectations and transformations. However, policies for combining paid work and family care are undermined by the persistent assumption made by managers at all levels, by colleagues, and by many of the parents themselves, that these are primarily policies for women. Experiences and well-being of parents of young children depend on multiple levels of context. Good, affordable childcare is regarded as essential, but not in itself sufficient for parental wellbeing in a context of long working hours and/or unstable employment conditions. Control over work-family boundaries, is also important although parents described a range of preferences and strategies for boundary management. Wellbeing is also highly related to expectations. Growing expectations of support for parenting, and for gender equity, are associated with transitional tensions if they are not mirrored by institutional changes. Recommendations from the study include the need for a multi-layered partnership approach to supporting parents in contemporary, changing contexts. This will involve confronting uncomfortable issues about the contradictions between work intensification in the global economic context and the needs of parents and children.

Item Type:Monograph (Project Report)
Additional Information:

With contributions from the other members of the Transitions team.

Funded within the Key Action Improving the Socio-Economic Knowledge base of the Fifth Framework Programme of the European Union.

Research Areas:Business School > Leadership, Work and Organisations
ID Code:8335
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Deposited On:25 Jan 2012 06:47
Last Modified:22 Jul 2014 14:42

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