Work–life balance is a concept including proper prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation). Related, though broader, terms include “lifestyle calm balance” and “lifestyle choices”.
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As we listened to different experts struggle with explaining how to achieve work-life balance, and having research various studies and opinions about this, my overall impression is that work-life balance is near impossible to achieve.
Thus I began to stretch the concept to Part-time work. Moreover, I would like to focus on women’s work–life, conflict, and job satisfaction.
The International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) 2013 ‘Family and Changing Gender Roles’ Module (N=1773) examined cross-country differences in the relationship between women’s part-time work and work–life conflict and job satisfaction. They hypothesize that part-time work will lead to less favorable outcomes in countries with employment policies that are less protective of part-time employees because the effects of occupational downgrading counteract the benefits of increased time availability. Their comparison focuses on the Netherlands and Australia while using Germany, the United Kingdom, and Sweden as benchmarks. Part-time employment is prevalent in all five countries, but has the most support and protection in the Dutch labor market. We find little evidence that country of residence conditions the effects of part-time work.
Overall, the results suggest that part-time work reduces work–life conflict to a similar extent in all countries except Sweden. The effects on job satisfaction are negligible. They discuss the implications for social policies meant to stimulate female labor force participation.
Work demands and parenting ideologies or family responsibilities have always been highly challenging for women. Mothers in particular, cope by ‘scaling back’ in the work domain.
Part-time work is much more prevalent among women than it is among men. Although attitudes vary across countries (Boye, 2011), it is widely considered harmful to young children if their mother works full-time, especially when high-quality childcare is unavailable. Women anticipate future family responsibilities by choosing jobs with fewer hours, even before they actually have children (SCP and CBS, 2011). Part-time employment among men is low (in 2006, male part-time rates varied between 9.9% in Germany and 27.2% in the Netherlands,
OECD, 2014), and although it is not frequently studied, it appears that men chose to work part-time for different reasons than women (e.g. Dekker et al., 2000; SCP and CBS, 2011). In the Netherlands, for example, the presence of children has only a minor impact on men’s working hours (SCP and CBS, 2011).
On the other hand, research finds that female part-time work reinforces rather than challenges the traditional gender division of domestic labor (Gornick and Meyers, 2003; Stier and LewinEpstein, 2000), and mothers employed part-time work long paid and unpaid hours because they spend as much time on childcare as full-time homemakers (Craig and Mullan, 2009). Indeed, role expansion theory argues that because it provides less economic, human, and social capital, parttime work has fewer positive work-to-family spill-over effects (Booth and Van Ours, 2009).
Interestingly, Grönlund and Öun (2010) find that compared to full-time workers, part-time employees are more likely to experience role conflict and role expansion, but are less likely to experience both at the same time. This supports the idea that part-time work is a ‘double-edged sword’.