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Enhancing Capabilities? Rethinking Work-life Policies and their Impact from a New Perspective

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - CAPABLE (Enhancing Capabilities? Rethinking Work-life Policies and their Impact from a New Perspective)

Période du rapport: 2021-12-01 au 2023-05-31

Gender inequality in paid work and family responsibilities is one of the most persistent social problems of the 21st century. Improving gender equality in work-life balance – how individuals combine paid work with other activities like caregiving – is therefore high on policy agendas. CAPABLE is important from a societal perspective because policymakers at all levels struggle to effectively address this inequality, while supporting individuals who face diverse work-life contexts. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the societal urgency of this issue.

CAPABLE is generating fundamentally new knowledge on how work-life balance policies impact people’s capabilities for achieving work-life balance in Europe. We developed a new lens for looking at the work-life policy landscape at multiple levels, building on innovative scientific models. We’re moving beyond traditional approaches to work-life balance, focusing on how policies can enhance people’s capabilities to lead a valued life.

These research efforts ultimately contribute to developing sustainable work-life balance policies that enhance gender equal capabilities and wellbeing by focusing on four objectives:
1. To investigate the extent to which work-life balance policies enhance men and women’s capabilities to achieve this balance in Europe.
2. To distinguish between work-life policies and the individual, community and social contexts that shape capabilities.
3. To analyse the extent to which work-life policies enhance individual wellbeing.
4. To generate policy tools for developing sustainable work-life balance policies in Europe.
Work on the CAPABLE project thus far included studying the multiple types of policies that can help individuals with their work-life balance. We did this in 8 European countries: Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK. We are currently using these data to study various policies, including those helping people to work flexibly, allowing parents time off around the birth of a child, or helping parents of disabled children combine care with other activities like work or study. In addition, we are looking more in depth at policies in 4 of these countries (the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, and the UK). In each of these countries, we spoke with policymakers and local organisations in 2 cities (Amsterdam and Nijmegen (the Netherlands); London and Leeds (the UK); Ljubljana and Maribor (Slovenia); Barcelona and Pamplona (Spain)). We’re using these data right now to look more closely at how local services help parents arrange care for young children and to help people care for (elderly) family members. Moreover, we have created a unique survey that will be used to gather data on people’s ability to combine work and other activities in September 2021 in these four countries.

To date, we’ve had several achievements on the CAPABLE project. In addition to the data we’ve collected (meeting key project objectives), we successfully completed one of the 7 sub-projects, presenting findings from this subproject to audiences inside and outside of the university. This led to a key scientific achievement, which is that we’ve created a new way of thinking about and explaining how people combine work with other activities outside of work, focusing on the communities they live in. This means we look at their relationships, like friends and family; where they live, like whether this is a large city, a small town, and so on; and we look at the services they might have in the place where they’re living – as well as the barriers to using these services. In the first 2.5 years of the project, we’ve also been having a lot of conversations with different groups about the CAPABLE project, providing detailed information on our project website (https://worklifecapabilities.com) writing about it in newspaper editorials, and talking about it in media interviews. But we also like talking about it in some smaller settings, like with groups of people who work for municipalities or with local organisations who support people providing care for loved ones. We’re also very excited that the head of the project, Dr. Mara A. Yerkes, together with Dr. Verena Seibel, was awarded an ODISSEI grant (Open Data Infrastructure for Social Science and Economic Innovations) to look more closely at how Dutch parents feel about being able to use childcare allowances.
In the coming years, we’re going to work on making up for some of the delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re going to look more closely at the data we’ve been gathering, studying lots of ways men and women’s lives are affected by work-life policies. We’ll be looking at the gap between policies, what people value in life, and people’s work-life balance. Despite the delays, we expect to meet all the original goals of the project. This means we will offer unique ways of understanding why men and women differ in what they value in their work lives and outside of work. We’ll study how policies do or do not help them in doing what they value, and how this affects their health and wellbeing. Together, each of these achievements will help us move beyond persistent inequalities in how men and women combine work and life outside of work.
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