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Reviews

‘Based on multiple comparative as well as UK sources, this new book by one of the most well known European social scientists unravels the multiple dimensions and relationships involved in balancing family and paid work demands. Jane Lewis documents persisting, and even increasing cross country differences. Notwithstanding these, work–family reconciliation policies are more concerned with allowing women to combine paid work and family care than with redistributing care between men and women. This important book should be required reading for everyone interested in social policy and welfare state analysis.’
Chiara Saraceno, Social Science Research Centre Berlin (WZB), Germany and University of Turin, Italy

‘This book provides a brilliant synthesis of comparative research on work–family policies with particular relevance to the emerging policy agenda in the UK. Jane Lewis is a profound thinker and graceful writer who leavens her theoretical sophistication with comprehensive attention to practical details.’
Nancy Folbre, University of Massachusetts, Amhurst, US

‘Jane Lewis is a brilliant conceptual innovator and gifted empirical analyst in the field of social policy. This book expertly illuminates the dramatically changing terrain of social policy with reference to employment, family and gender relations.’
Ann Orloff, Northwestern University, US

Work–Family Balance, Gender and Policy

Jane Lewis|
Edward Elgar (May 2009)

Combining paid work with caring for children has become more difficult for families as women’s working hours have increased. Over the past decade the issue of work–family balance has reached a more prominent place on the policy agenda of many Western European countries. However the preoccupations of governments have been largely instrumental, focusing particularly on the goal of increasing female employment rates in order to achieve greater competitiveness and economic growth, and also in many countries on raising fertility rates and promoting children’s early learning.

This important book looks at the three main components of work–family policy packages – childcare services, flexible working patterns and entitlements to leave from work in order to care – across EU15 Member States, with comparative reference to the US. It also provides an in-depth examination of developments in the UK. Variations in national priorities, policy instruments, established policy orientations and the context for policy making in terms of employment patterns, fertility behaviour and attitudes towards work and care are highlighted.

Gender inequalities in the division of paid and unpaid work underpin the whole issue of work–family balance. But what constitutes gender equality in this crucial policy field? Jane Lewis argues that in spite of growing political emphasis on the importance of ‘choice’, a ‘real’ choice to engage in either or both the socially necessary activities of paid and unpaid work has remained elusive.

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Work–Family Balance, Gender and Policy