Conceptual framework

The quest for a work—life balance has become a modern holy grail. The dizzying speed of change in the world of work, propelled by a digital revolution and economic crises, has swept away demarcation lines between the professional and the personal. These have brought socioeconomic costs that have impacted gender equality across different domains of life.

Work—life balance is no longer just a personal goal, it is also a political one. The Gender Equality Index 2019 reflects that with its thematic focus on work—life balance, capturing data and information that indicate how the EU and its Member States are progressing on this key policy objective.

In addition to the work—life balance-related indicators already provided by the Index in several domains in previous chapters, this report presents an additional set of indicators on the topic. For this purpose, and at the European Commission’s request, EIGE developed a work—life balance scoreboard which, while not included in the calculations of the Gender Equality Index scores, demonstrates conceptual and statistical links to the Index and is an important step in context­ualising the information extracted there.

This analysis is centred on the European Pillar of Social Rights and its ‘New start’ initiative on work—life balance, including legislative and non-legislative measures. It shows that the major challenges of work—life balance are intrinsically linked to gender (in)equalities. It also provides new insight into the monitoring of the implementation of legal and policy measures on work—life balance at the EU and national levels. The proposed indicators on work—life balance could complement the social scoreboard, which monitors Member State performance in relation to the European Pillar of Social Rights.

The analysis does not aim to define what ‘good’ work—life balance is or assess which policy designs are better than others in achieving work—life balance. The exact impact of any policy or measure on this issue in a society depends on a complex interaction between individual preferences, the provision of supporting services, labour-market characteristics or the social-protection system as a whole.

The aim here is to present and explore the different options people have for reconciling their work and personal life and whether these are equally available to all women and men, and if so, how can they further boost gender equality.

Conceptually, the work—life balance scoreboard (Table 1) is based on three broad areas: paid work, unpaid work (care), and education and training. It pre­sents 15 indicators in six specific areas of concern: parental-leave policies; informal care for older people, people with disabilities and LTC services; childcare and childcare services; transport and public infrastructure; flexible working arrangements; and lifelong learning.

The work—life balance scoreboard has multiple advantages. It is based on a broad concept of work—life balance with a gender-equality perspective. It integrates individual-level outcome-based indicators with institutional-level input indicators (e.g. participation in informal care vs availability of care services). Indicators are also analysed in a broader context. For example, the analysis examines different modes of transport used by women and men and how hard it is for women and men to access public transport, in addition to exploring gender differences in commuting patterns. The analysis further looks at how gender intersects with other grounds of inequalities (e.g. age or type of family) throughout the course of a life. It applies a sectoral/occupational approach when relevant.

Work—life balance scoreboard

Table 4. Work—life balance scoreboard