English title: The Agency Gap in Work–Life Balance: Applying Sen's Capabilities Framework Within European Contexts

Author(s): Barbara Hobson -

Language: English

Type: Journal article

Year: 2011


Work–life balance (hereafter WLB) is a discursive refrain in European public debate that reflects goals for a more productive workforce: that women and men should be able to be both earners and carers. It is not merely a buzzword in policy circles, however, but mirrors rising expectations of working parents for a better quality of life and the tensions that ensue from these expectations within individual lives, households, work organizations, and policy frameworks. European societies' attitudinal studies reveal that an overwhelming majority of both women and men maintain that WLB is a primary priority when considering job and workplace (Hobson and Fahlén 2009a, 2009b). There is also convincing evidence that most European men would like to reduce their working hours, even with an equivalent reduction in hourly pay (Fagan 2004; Hobson and Fahlén 2009a). Yet, there is a growing gap between attitudes and practices, the ideal and the real, as seen in the rising numbers of individuals who work long hours (Boulin et al. 2006; Guest 2002; Lee 2004), and the significant proportions of jobs with unsocial hours (Boulin et al. 2006; Perrons et al. 2006). When applied to working parents, WLB is often defined as a lack thereof, i.e., work–life imbalance, or work–life conflict (Guest 2002), which is reflected in international research that shows that individuals most often view work demands as impinging on family time rather than vice versa (Frone 2003).

Volume: 18

Issue: 2

From page no: 147

To page no: 167

Refereed: Yes

DOI: 10.1093/SP/JXR012

Journal: Social Politics

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