English title: Facets of Work–Life Balance across Europe: How the interplay of institutional contexts, work arrangements and individual resources affect capabilities for having a family, and for being involved in family life

Author(s): Susanne Fahlén -

Language: English

Type: Thesis / dissertation

Year: 2012


The aim of this dissertation is to explore various dimensions of work–life balance in Europe. I examine the extent to which institutional factors, working conditions and individual resources influence individuals’ capabilities to have a family and engage in family life. The theoretical framework is inspired by Amartya Sen’s capability framework, a multi-dimensional approach that provides a deeper understanding of the relationship between institutional contexts and individual capabilities. Four studies have been conducted. The first study focuses on women’s short-term childbearing intentions in ten European countries and finds that the association between such intentions and economic uncertainties varies by the policy support for work-family reconciliation in the country as well as individual factors, such as her educational level, and her number of children. The second study addresses the impact of family-friendly working conditions on young adult women’s childbearing behaviour in Sweden, showing the importance of family-friendly working condition for the transition to motherhood of less educated childless women with low income, and for second births of low educated mothers. The third study analyses gender differences in perceived work–home conflict in ten European countries, and the importance of work-family policies and gender norms. I find that gender differences are more pronounced in countries with weaker support for work-family reconciliation and more traditional gender norms. The fourth study focuses on tensions between work and family demands that parents in Hungary and Sweden experience, and on their capabilities to make claims for work–life balance. We find greater agency inequalities for Hungarian parents for claims making for and achievement of work-life balance, in contrast to a strong sense of entitlement to exercise rights to care among Swedish parents, which reflect country variations in policy supports for work-life balance, working time regimes and social norms regarding work and care.


Awarding institution: Dept. of Sociology, Stockholm University

Number of pages: 177

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