Lewis, Jane. Work-Family Balance, Gender and Policy.

Author:Cody-Rydzewski, Susan
Position:Book review

Lewis, Jane. Work-Family Balance, Gender and Policy. Cheltenham, U.K.: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 2009. viii + 255 pages. Cloth $115.00.

Work-Family Balance, Gender and Policy is a valuable source for scholars, teachers, and policymakers concerned with current challenges facing working parents, especially mothers. The unique focus of the book is an exploration of public policies among European Union members with regard to establishing a healthy balance in the lives of working families. The analyses provided are quantitative and a number of valuable data sets are employed for illustration such as the European Social Survey, the Labour Force Survey, and figures derived from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

A major argument put forth by the author is that work/family policies have had little to do with a concern for over-worked and over-scheduled parents but more to do with facilitating women's participation in the labor market. In recent years, European social policies have focused less on simply minimizing negative consequences and have become more affirmative in seeking to help develop worker potential. Policies focused on the creation and maintenance of a viable work force have been primarily aimed at women who are mothers, reflecting the gendered concern with work force interruption and stagnation which has traditionally characterized the employment histories of women with young children.

Lewis gives substantial treatment to patterns of family change, changing notions of gender equality, and government policies surrounding work and family. As is the case in the United States, many states within the EU rely on what are known as "gender participation" models rather than what might be referred to as "free choice" models. That is, they have enacted policies which allow women to enter the labor market and to leave it for a short period of time if and when they are needed for care work. They do not, however, facilitate the choice for mothers (or fathers) to engage in either paid or unpaid work. There is an assumption that some paid work must be done; the policies are in place to ease the burden of this work on a temporary basis in order to allow women to care for dependent children. As noted, a significant concern is the reality that such policies are, in fact, written with women in mind. There is no equivalent assumption (unless it has come into play very recently among a limited number of states) that fathers...

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