Second Thoughts on Work-life Balance Day


Today is work-life balance day. "Hurrah!" you think. Think again. Despite how friendly it sounds, work-life balance is not something to celebrate. There are three things to know about work-life balance.

1. When the government and companies' talk about work-life balance, they aren’t talking about a balance between our working time and our leisure time. The balance they are interested in is the one between paid employment and the work we do as carers; either of our children or of our aging relatives.

2.  The reason they are interested in this balance is because in the past unpaid caring work was done by women working in the home. Over the last ten years the number of women in paid employment has increased. When there were labour shortages (such as during the Celtic Tiger), governments and employers needed to encourage women to stay in the labour force – throughout the world it is women who take on the majority of un-paid caring work, whether they are in paid employment or not. Work-life balance policies are aimed at allowing women to continue to work this double shift.

3.  Government and companies' commitments are limited to those policies which do not cost anything. So flexitime, term-time working or teleworking are often offered. Creches or financial support for paying for childcare or home helps for elderly parents rarely are.

Under capitalism, work-life balance refers to policies which help carers in society to juggle their caring responsibilities and their paid employment. The burden of juggling these two types of work still lands squarely on individual shoulders. We'll celebrate when the job of caring is supported by all in society.  Only then will work-life balance actually mean that we have time for work and time for play.

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