Gender Equality Index 2019. Work-life balance
Gender Equality Index 2019
Domain of work
The domain of work, with a score of 72.0, keeps the third-highest position in the Gender Equality Index. This score spotlights the incremental progress of 2 points made since 2005, pointing to the major challenges that remain. In particular, the segregation and quality of work sub-domain, with a score as low as 64.0, points to stagnation and low level of effectiveness of measures undertaken to reduce gender segregation and other gender inequalities in employment. Women not only remain over-represented in education, human health and social work, but their employment in these sectors increased by a further 2 p.p. between 2005 and-2017 to over 30 %.
Women still dominate part-time employment, consigning them to jobs with poorer career progression. No steady narrowing of the gender gap in FTE employment (which is at 16 p.p.) has been noted nationally in recent years, whereas it even widened (by at least 1 p.p.) in, for example, Denmark, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and Slovenia. This means that the goal of the Europe 2020 strategy to reach a 75 % employment rate for women and men alike remains elusive, due strictly to women’s particularly vulnerable access to jobs. While women’s employment rate in 2018 was just above 67 %, the 79 % rate for men had already surpassed the EU goal. In all EU Member States, men dominate specific fields such as engineering and technology, but are under-represented in others, such as teaching and care work. Women’s disproportionate responsibility for care of dependent family members and household tasks is a major factor of gender segregation in employment. The situation requires much wider and more explicit recognition of gender inequalities as a major barrier to achieving the EU employment target in the future and setting up gender-sensitive targets in the assessment of policy effectiveness.
Motherhood, lower upskilling and reskilling opportunities and a migration background remain particular barriers to accessing and progressing in jobs for women, especially among those with a low level of education. Being a parent continues to hinder women, but not men, in the labour market. The largest gender gap in the FTE employment rates is noted in couples with children. The gap is 60 % for women, whereas it reaches as high as 88 % for men. Though the work—life balance directive makes a bold and necessary step in recognising the need to, as well as instigating conditions to, better support women’s access to paid work, more needs to be done. For example, boosting equal opportunities to participate in and benefit from continuous training and retraining and more gender-balanced opportunities of using transport and other public infrastructure are needed, not the least to create more gender-equal access to employment. A better gender balance as regards access to paid work and working intensity could be achieved via a better access to and take-up of FWAs, especially if taken up by men. This underlines the role of men in freeing up women’s time resources and thus their wider opportunities outside the home sphere, boosting gender equality in employment as well as social and economic well-being for all.
Domain of money
Recent years have seen wage and household disposable income increases in a large majority of Member States, but gender equality in financial and economic resources remains elusive, in line with steady gender gaps in accessing paid employment. The domain of money, with a score of 80.4 in 2017, has for the first time surpassed 80 points, ranking second only to the domain of health in the Gender Equality Index. This promising development nonetheless relates to patchy progress on gender-equal access to financial and economic resources. In 2005 the sub-domain of economic resources (which accounts for women’s and men’s exposure to poverty and income inequality among women and men) scored 89.7 points: it was 2 points lower in 2017.
Persistent gender inequalities in pay still reflect the price paid for motherhood, and are closely linked to the gendered distribution of care responsibilities within families. This points to further efforts being needed to generally increase society’s awareness of the existence and roots of gender inequalities in pay and of the ways to minimise and even counteract their potential occurrence. For this, the consistent and simultaneous application of organisational and policy-level measures, including those listed in the EU action plan 2017-2019 — tackling the gender pay gap, is of utmost importance.
In addition, the complexity of the gender gaps in pay requires moving away from partial or simplistic descriptions of the phenomenon, which often offer too narrow or incomplete comprehension and thus insufficient capacity to address it (EIGE, 2019c). For example, in addition to the reduction of the gender pay gap, which displays gender gaps in hourly pay, more attention should be paid to narrowing gender gaps in annual earnings, which account for differences in employment intensity and overall labour-market participation. Furthermore, more regular monitoring of gender gaps in pay and the income situation among people from more vulnerable backgrounds, such as migrant, Roma or older women, is needed and would provide a better basis for improved policy responses.
Analysis in the domain of money also stresses the need for long-term policy evaluations. For example, lifetime pay inequalities fall on older women, pointing to the need for gender-sensitive and forward-looking evaluation not only of national employment policies, but also of social-protection systems. The gender gap in pensions in the EU stands at 39 %, and the gender gap in poverty to the disadvantage of women is at its highest among those aged 75 and over. This shows the limited effectiveness of current public-policy settings in reducing gendered barriers to equal economic and financial resources throughout people’s lives. It also asks for more comprehensive evaluation and consistency of various policy settings and their reforms in order to ensure the equal economic independence of women and men.
Domain of knowledge
The domain of knowledge remained virtually static between 2015 and 2017, and the overall progress in gender equality in the area of knowledge has been slow over the last 12 years. Educational attainment is rising, especially among women, but more significant progress is being impeded by persistent gender segregation in higher education and low levels of participation in lifelong learning.
Young women (aged 30-34) have already reached the Europe 2020 target (46 % have graduated from tertiary education), but the share of men tertiary graduates has yet to reach it. Moreover, the gender gap in educational attainment among the younger generation has been widening to the detriment of men, and reached 10 p.p. in 2016. Further challenges are faced by women and men with disabilities and by people from deprived socioeconomic backgrounds, highlighting the importance of access to high-quality inclusive education, as aimed for in the European Pillar of Social Rights.
Although more women and men graduate from universities than in the past, gender segregation in education remains a major barrier to gender equality in the EU. In 2017, 43 % of all women at university were studying education, health and welfare, humanities and arts, with the gender gap in the EU as a whole at 22 p.p., remaining unchanged since 2005. Such a divide is mirrored by gender segregation in the labour market, determining women’s and men’s earnings, career prospects and working conditions.
The majority of Member States lag far behind the European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020) benchmark of 15 % of adults engaged in lifelong learning, with the EU-28 average stagnating at 11 % (12 % for women and 10 % for men in 2017). Adult learning stalls most when reskilling needs are greatest. Participation in lifelong learning is particularly low among the population groups who could most benefit from it — older or low-skilled adults working in precarious or fragmented work situations. A highly skilled and mobile working population is crucial for Europe’s prosperity, therefore participation in lifelong learning will continue to be high on the EU policy agenda.
Participation in education and training played an important role in the Europe 2020 flagship initiative, ‘An agenda for new skills and jobs’, and was also at the centre Member State-specific recommendations in 2018 and 2019. Moreover, the Commission, in its communication on strengthening European identity through education and culture, proposed to establish an ambitious new benchmark for participation in lifelong learning — 25 % by 2025.
Although continuous learning throughout life is essential, finding time to maintain and increase skills and knowledge is challenging. Education and training is increasingly becoming a cornerstone of work—life balance. Member States with higher participation rates in adult formal and non-formal education displayed more gender-balanced time share for caring and higher-gender equality achievements in the domain of work.
Domain of time
The enduring burden of care perpetuates inequalities for women. Gender inequalities in time use are persistent and growing: the 2017 score of 65.7 is not only 1 p.p. lower than that of 2005, it also represents a 3.2 p.p. drop from the gains that had been achieved up until 2012. This domain has the third-lowest score in the Gender Equality Index. Developments in this domain cannot be monitored post the 2017 Index because EU data has not yet been updated. The next data update for this domain is expected in 2021. More frequent time-use data would help more immediate tracking of progress in this domain.
The most recent available data shows that there is an uneven impact of family life on women and men. Women are engaged disproportionally more in unpaid care work, but even more strikingly in other domestic tasks. Only 34 % of men are engaged in cooking and housework every day for 1 hour or more in comparison with 79 % of women, with the situation barely changing in more than a decade.
Gender inequalities in unpaid domestic work are highest between women and men who live in a couple and have children. Women and men with disabilities need care, but they are also carers. The Gender Equality Index shows 29 % of women and 20 % of men with disabilities in the EU doing care work every day. A bigger share of women with disabilities (79%) are cooking and/or doing other housework compared to men with disabilities (41%). Women and men in pre-retirement age also often step in to provide care to their grandchildren, allowing parents to work while their own employment suffers. Time use by women and men is heavily influenced by other social and cultural factors, but also by available work—life balance policies, public services and infrastructures.
A framework for tackling work—life balance and the ‘care penalty’ is established by both the European Pillar of Social Rights and the EU action plan on tackling the gender pay gap. More specific action is being taken through the directive on work—life balance for parents and carers, adopted by the Council of the European Union in June 2019.
The lack of formal care services impacts women as informal carers disproportionately when compared to men, both during their working age and beyond it. Gender inequalities in time spent on informal caring are being debated in EU policy circles as a challenge of work—life balance. It is recognised that the disproportionate amount of time spent on unpaid care work and housework impacts women’s participation in employment and opportunities for social, personal and civic activities. It reinforces gender segregation in education and in the labour market. It also affects women’s employment patterns and career prospects by exacerbating their involvement in precarious employment and by reinforcing the gender gap in pay and pensions.
The thematic focus of the 2019 Index on work—life balance confirms that gender equality in general, but particularly in the domain of time, is strongly interlinked with many aspects of work—life balance.
Work—life balance policies such as childcare and LTC services and FWAs therefore enhance gender equality. The Gender Equality Index scores are higher in the Member States where formal childcare and LTC arrangements are more widely available. More concluding remarks on formal and informal care are presented in the subsequent chapter on work—life balance.
Domain of power
While the domain of power has the lowest score in the Gender Equality Index (51.9), it also shows the most improvement (an increase of 3.4 points since 2015 and 13 points since 2005). Much of the success in the Member States demonstrating notable improvements in gender balance in political decision-making since 2005 can be attributed to the implementation of either a gender quota law or voluntary party quotas.
Continued lack of gender parity is a fundamental concern for democracy. In 2018 the proportion of women in national parliaments (single/lower house) across the EU Member States reached an all-time high of 30 % but that still means that seven in ten members of parliaments are men. Fewer than one in five major political parties in the EU (18 %) has a woman leader, though there is better representation among deputy leaders (34 % women). In national governments, women account for just three in ten (31 %) senior ministers (members of the cabinet or equivalent) and are twice as likely to be given less conspicuous sociocultural portfolios (i.e. health, education and social affairs) as men.
The share of women on the boards of large companies across the EU more than doubled between 2010 and 2018 (from 12 % to 26 %), when the European Commission brought the issue to the fore, but progress has been concentrated in just a few Member States where governments have either taken or considered legislative action and/or had an intensive public debate on the issue. Elsewhere there has been little improvement, and now that the main drivers of progress have reached or are close to their national targets, progress at EU level has slowed down.
The increased level of female representation in boardrooms is not feeding through to the executive hierarchy. In 2018 women accounted for just 17 % of senior executives compared to 29 % of non-executives. Less than a quarter (24 %) of the largest companies in the EU Member States have at least 40 % of each gender among non-executives, and more than one in five (21 %) have no women non-executives at all. Although the number of women on corporate boards has more than doubled since 2010, the top positions are still largely occupied by men — women account for just 7 % of board chairs and 7 % of CEOs.
Data on decision-making in research-funding organisations indicates that women’s opportunities to influence the research agenda and ensure equal access to funding for both women and men are limited. Men dominate the highest decision-making positions in the main research-funding organisations across the EU. In this respect, the gender-balance targets for advisory groups (50 %) and evaluation panels (40 %) of the Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation are highly relevant.
The proportion of women involved in top-level decision-making in media organisations is also low, although women’s employment in the media sector has been gradually increasing over the course of two decades. Women occupy 36 % of top decision-making positions in public broadcasting organisations across the EU. The Council acknowledged that media has an enormous capacity to contribute positively to the achievement of gender equality at all levels, and has confirmed its commitment to advancing women’s roles in decision-making in the media (Council of the European Union, 2013).
Although women’s participation in sports is increasing, women are frequently absent from sports decision-making bodies. On average in the EU-28 women make up 16 % of decision-making positions in the most popular sports federations in Europe (2 p.p. higher than in 2015). Several international and continental federations in Europe, responsible for the promotion and development of sports, have already shown a commitment to gender equality by introducing gender quotas. At the national level, initiatives to set up voluntary targets for gender balance in the governing structures of sports federations are concentrated in just a few Member States, which also have a higher level of women’s representation in top decision-making positions.
Domain of health
Gender norms and stereotypes undermine behavioural change, to the detriment of men’s health. Despite being the highest scoring domain since the inception of the Gender Equality Index, the health domain score has stalled since 2015 (+ 0.7 points), and has barely progressed since 2005 (+ 2.2 points). Gender inequalities are most prominent in the sub-domain of health behaviour, with a score of 75.4 points. Largely due to dominant masculinity norms, men are more likely than women to be involved in risk behaviours such as smoking and excessive drinking, thereby increasing their risk of early death and morbidity in general.
Women live longer than men but spend more of their life in poorer health. In most EU Member States, the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health has increased by 2.8 for women and 3.6 for men since 2005, and an extra 9 months for both women and men since 2015. Despite improving health conditions and increasing life expectancy, clear gendered challenges remain regarding inequalities in health in the EU. While early and preventable deaths are one of the main concerns for men, women live longer but spend a greater share of their life in ill health. In 2016, women spent 20 years of their life in poor health in the EU compared to 16 years for men. Accordingly, a gender-specific approach to the health-related challenges faced by women and men could effectively contribute to reducing gender gaps, especially in light of ageing populations, a diminishing workforce and increasing pressure on welfare systems.
Disadvantaged groups of women and men in the EU still face greater unmet needs for healthcare services. The high scores in the sub-domain of access to healthcare in all Member States reflect continuous efforts to achieve access to adequate healthcare services in the EU. However, certain groups of women and men experience more difficulty in accessing the health support they need. In the EU, lone mothers (6 %) and fathers (8 %), as well as women (8 %) and men (7 %) with disabilities, are more likely to have unmet needs. Also, despite higher mortality rates for infections and diseases related to poor living conditions, migrants and refugees experience unequal access to preventive healthcare in a large majority of Member States. The Roma population also face major obstacles in meeting their needs in terms of health, especially with access to sexual and reproductive health services for Roma women.
Domain of violence
The limited availability of high-quality EU-wide comparative data, broken down by gender and the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator, makes it extremely difficult to measure the prevalence of violence against women in the EU. Only three indicators of the second tier of the measurement framework for the domain of violence for which recent data was available could be updated, although not for all Member States: femicide, FGM and trafficking in human beings. As a result, scores for each Member State could not be presented. The completion of the next EU-wide survey on violence against women is essential for the EU and its Member States to make progress in their efforts to prevent and eliminate violence against women.
In this context, administrative data collected through the reporting and recording procedures of institutions such as the police, prosecutors’ offices or the courts, is a key source of information that can help understand the scale of violence against women in the EU (EIGE, 2019b). Drawing from the victims’ rights directive and the Istanbul Convention’s minimum requirements for data provision, EIGE has developed a set of 13 indicators, seven of which are part of the measurement framework of the domain of violence, to be populated by the police and justice sectors to help Member States in collecting comprehensive and uniform data on rape, femicide and intimate partner violence. Further efforts need to be invested in measuring other severe forms of violence, such as psychological violence and forced marriage.
In light of the current backlash against gender equality and women’s rights in the EU, the ratification and full implementation of the Istanbul Convention by the EU and all of its Member States are needed more than ever to facilitate the development and monitoring of effective strategies and policies to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women.
Work—life balance and gender equality
The analysis carried out within the framework of the thematic focus of the Gender Equality Index 2019 shows strong links between gender equality and work—life balance, as measured by the work—life balance scoreboard that EIGE has developed and proposed (see Section 9.1). The availability of care services, benefits and services to families, job protection provided by leave policies, public infrastructure and the overall child-friendliness of the society create or limit opportunities and establish conditions in which women and men take their decisions regarding both work and family.
For more effective policies on work—life balance, the discourse of work—life balance needs to be broadened. First, we call for a broader conceptualisation of work—life balance, which means welcoming more areas, such as lifelong learning or public infrastructure, into discussions and policies.
Second, the focus of the work—life balance discussion has to shift from separated fields of life and take a more holistic approach to life. Work—life balance is not just blocks of time allocated to work and other activities; it is determined by the ‘whole day’s schedule of multiple activities and trips taken by an individual’ (Dong, Ben-Akiva, Bowman, & Walker, 2006). Gender inequalities are not isolated within each field of life, instead they feed into each other, leading to multiple inequalities and amplified barriers to balancing work and life.
Third, work—life balance is not only a challenge for employed people or parents. Inactivity or low birth rates are often signs of failing reconciliation, where people are forced to give up or make major compromises in one of the major fields of life. For instance, a full-time carer of a child or adult with significant disabilities is unlikely to be able to take up paid work, or someone may decide not to have or to postpone having children as they anticipate being ineligible for leave policies.
Fourth, balancing work and life is not an individual task, but an everyday negotiation between members of the family. This is where the roots of gender inequalities lie. While women have quite successfully stepped into the world of paid work, men have not taken a similar step into the world of the home to equally share the responsibilities and pleasures of family life. Even with all the work—life policies in place, the family-related responsibilities never disappear — it is always the family that holds the first responsibility for the well-being of its members. As long as women, but not men, are expected to carry the double burden of work and family, gender inequalities will persist.
Work—life balance policies should be better coordinated and reflect changes in the labour market and society as a whole. For example, there should not be a care gap between the end of parental-leave provision and publicly subsidised high-quality formal childcare.
The importance of intersectional approach was once again confirmed. Certain groups of people are disadvantaged, no matter which aspect of work—life balance we look at. One example is low-qualified people — especially women — who are more likely to be out of paid work, are more likely to be ineligible for leave policies, have less flexibility in the labour market, are more often dependent on public transport and attend less lifelong learning. This situation is also very similar for women of pre-retirement age.
The thematic focus of the 2019 Gender Equality Index on work—life balance provides a unique insight into the gender inequalities that are caused and reproduced by parental-leave policy rules. While the parental leave directive (Directive 2010/18/EU) does set the minimum for the overall duration of the leave for working women and men, the conditions of access are defined by the Member States.
About one in ten employed women and men are not entitled to parental leave because the Member States have established restrictive eligibility rules. Without job protection they would lose their jobs if they wanted or needed to have time off from their paid work to care for their children beyond maternity and paternity leave. Since it is still generally women who take care of children, such restrictions have major consequences for gender equality. Indeed, the scores in the domains of work and of time are higher in the Member States where the eligibility rate for parental leave is higher and the coverage of leave policies is more universal.
The majority of Member States have set eligibility conditions which are connected to working arrangements. The parental leave directive gives Member States the right to make entitlement to parental leave subject ‘to a period of work qualification and/or a length of service qualification which shall not exceed one year’. This illustrates well how certain FWAs like short-term contracts or other new forms of work can be seen as a double-edged sword. While providing flexibility and therefore better support for work—life balance, non-standard work also puts people in a precarious situations by excluding them from social policies. Non-standard and new forms of work are a fast‑growing trend in the labour market, which makes it urgent to revisit social‑protection mechanisms which are still designed for old and standard forms of work.
Currently, policies may reinforce labour market or other inequalities by excluding those most at risk. For instance, in six Member States more than 25 % of young (20-24 year old) employed women and men were ineligible for parental leave. People in in lower-skilled and manual jobs are more likely to be ineligible than those in higher-skilled occupations. Same-sex couples are not eligible for parental leave in 11 Member States.
There are also other terrains to be explored. Namely, the parental leave directive gives the employer the right ‘to postpone the granting of parental leave for justifiable reasons related to the operation of the organisation’. There is no evidence as to what extent employers exercise their right to deny mothers and fathers their rights over business interests and whether there are any gendered consequences. Studies have shown that employers’ attitudes are often an obstacle for men to take up parental leave (e.g. Wall & Leitão, 2017).
The analysis of eligibility for parental leave could complement an in-depth analysis of Member State-specific challenges identified by the social scoreboard and strengthen the analytical basis of the Commission’s proposals for Member States‑specific European semester recommendations.
In addition to gaps in leave entitlements, sufficient care provisions are not always in place. There are five Member States (HR, IT, LT, RO, SK) where there is no obligation for authorities to provide a care or nursery place for a child should a parent so wish. Moreover, only in 12 Member States is the entitlement to public childcare in place immediately after the parental‑leave entitlements end. Although care services may be provided in spite of there being no legal obligation, such a gap between parental‑leave and care‑service entitlements can extend to as long as 3 years, creating an obstacle to a smooth transition between work and parental leave.
Overall, 14 % of households in the EU 2016 reported unmet needs for childcare services, and it is still women who are more likely than men to step in to fill in the gap, either at the expense of their jobs or taking on a double shift. In a context where women continue to bear a heavier burden of informal care, having no childcare granted after parental‑leave entitlements are exhausted has clear repercussions on female employment rates, and more widely on gender equality. In the EU, 10 % of women work part-time or are inactive due to care duties, while this applies to only 1 % of men. In households with the youngest child under 7 years of age, women spend on average 32 hours a week on paid work and 39 hours on unpaid work, compared to 41 hours and 19 hours for men respectively.
The European Pillar of Social Rights declares access to affordable and good-quality childcare services one of its core principles. Now that good progress has been made in reaching the Barcelona targets, the time may have come to consider a review of the Barcelona targets by looking more broadly into the qualitative aspects of services and exploring their links with employment targets, work—life balance and other economic indicators.
In the context of an ageing population and increasing disability rates, the care needs for older people and people with disabilities are dramatically gaining attention. In addition to households having unmet needs for childcare, one in three households in the EU report having unmet needs for professional home-care services for older persons and/or persons with disabilities. In the majority of Member States, women bear such care responsibilities, putting additional pressure on their work—life balance and employment opportunities. In the EU-28, 15 % of women and 10 % of men provide informal LTC to older people and/or people with disabilities. In Member States with a more gender-unequal division of care responsibilities, the Gender Equality Index score is lower. Given this situation, an important further step would be to establish EU-level targets on LTC services, similar to the Barcelona targets on childcare.
The European Pillar of Social Rights declares access to affordable and good-quality LTC services to be one of its core principles. Improving the availability, affordability and quality of LTC services is also one of the priority areas for action in the Commission’s ‘New start’ initiative on work—life balance. In addition, the European disability strategy 2010-2020 promotes the transition from institutional to community-based care. The 2019 directive on work—life balance for parents and carers introduced a new annual right for workers to take at least 5 working days of carers’ leave in the event of serious illness or dependency of a relative or a person who lives in the same household as the worker. This provision aims to improve carers’ work—life- balance and, at the same time, avoid their dropping out of the labour market entirely.
In every person’s life there is commuting, whether between work, home, schools, health, care and other public services, grocery shops, banks, leisure and volunteering activities, etc. Physical environment, geography and social organisation of public infrastructure, together with logistics and commuting options, play a major role in how well work can be combined with rest of one’s life.
The scarce statistics that are available on commuting and transport show that on average women spend as much as 40 minutes and men 45 minutes of their day on commuting to and from the workplace. Women more often than men are users of public transport as they have more limited access to private cars — a sign of gender inequalities in other fields of life. Being carers of small children but also of persons with physical limitations, the physical accessibility of public transport as well as the quality and maintenance of roads may determine the real mobility of these people. Suitable, fast, safe and convenient means of transport not only allow for a better work—life balance but also support job searching and taking up better positions in the labour market.
In Member States where the level of women’s mobility is higher, women and men are more equality involved in caring and household activities. Also, the scores of the domain of work are higher in those countries where women’s commuting times are longer, indicating that in countries where women are freer to move they have better work opportunities. Time pressure among working women is often caused by an incompatibility between the location and opening hours of childcare facilities and employment times (McLean, Naumann, & Koslowski, 2016; Steiber, 2009).
Urban planning in general, but also the planning of public transport and the maintenance of roads, are highly significant from a gender perspective, supporting or complicating the everyday logistics and balancing of work and life. The European Economic and Social Committee states in its opinion that gender consideration is currently absent from EU transport policy. The transport sector is traditionally male dominated, and as a result transport policy is male oriented and also centered around men’s lifestyles (European Economic and Social Committee, 2015). The mainstreaming of gender into policies impacting transport and public infrastructure is needed. Better data is also needed in order to carry out analysis from a gender perspective on how public infrastructures restrict or support work—life balance and gender equality.
Flexible working arrangements
Possibilities to adjust one’s working arrangements — either occasionally or on a permanent basis — according to family or personal needs is of paramount importance to a successful work—life balance. In the EU 57 % of women and 54 % of men have their working‑time arrangements set by the company or organisation and still have no possibilities of any self-induced flexibility in changing them. Men have greater availability of flexible working‑time arrangements than women, not least due to their higher uptake of jobs in the private sector, which by now offers greater flexibility of working arrangements in comparison to the public sector.
People in occupations requiring a lower level of qualifications are particularly disadvantaged as regards flexibility in working‑time arrangements. As mentioned earlier, they also are less likely to benefit from parental leave. This partially explains why women with a lower level of qualifications are very likely to be out of paid work and not searching for a job because of care responsibilities (EIGE, 2017d). This is also an illustration of the far‑reaching employment and income effects of failing to reach reconciliation of work and personal‑life demands.
While part-time arrangements, one of the types of FWA, may be a desirable solution if they are voluntary and temporary, this should not be the only way to a better work—life balance. It should also not mean that part-time jobs become ‘traps’ for women, harming their economic independence, career prospects, and future pension entitlements. Public policies, particularly those ensuring sufficient and affordable care provisions, need to be in place in order to support (re-)entry to full-time paid work for women. This would support labour‑market adjustments as regards of the availability and flexibility of full-time jobs.
Participation in education and training is another time-intensive activity competing for time, adding complexity to the daily exercise of logistics. Europe’s desire to increase the proportion of adults participating in education and training initiatives should be looked at, together with the aim of striving towards a better work—life balance.
Family-related duties prevent women from participating in lifelong learning and training, and this effect is strongest among women with small children. On average in the EU 40 % of women and 24 % of men cannot participate in lifelong learning due to family responsibilities. In nearly all Member States, men report conflicts of work schedule more often than women do as an obstacle to participating in lifelong learning and training. This is why work—life balance, participation in lifelong learning and gender equality are strongly interconnected. The ‘New start’ initiative on work—life balance provides a promising basis for closer integration of policies on work—life balance and policies on education, training and lifelong learning.
Taking an intersectional perspective here puts the same groups of women and men in the limelight once again: older women and men and those with a lower level of qualifications have lower rates of participation in lifelong learning. When taking a holistic approach where all aspects of work—life balance are looked at together, it becomes clear that inequalities amplify each other, and that there are certain groups of women and men whose life arrangements are such that they are disadvantaged more than others in several dimensions of work—life balance.