Children: A corporate inconvenience?

Negative fallout is being reported for both men and women who take or wish to assume responsibility for parenting and childcare. My thoughts were further compounded after reading that women of child-bearing age are considered to be employment risks  and still further, a recent proposal to investigate the extension of the provision of childcare  services in UK schools, by lengthening the school day until 8.00pm

12 hour day care

Now, it could be that outsourcing child care for what could be 12 hours a day for many, is a viable, sustainable solution in societies and economies that have declining populations, aging work forces and skill shortages. I await the research with eager anticipation. But for the future of global economies, it does strike me, that governments and businesses need to examine possibilities to create effective workforces, while allowing children to be raised in healthy environments, physically and emotionally.

Historically, for self-evident, biological reasons, this has been a role assigned to women. As such a high percentage of educated and qualified personnel are now women, it seems crazy to sit back and allow their skills to be under utilised, when they leave the workforce or choose to work below their capabilities so that they can raise their families.

But today in changing times, what happens when men and women alike want (or need) both professional and child-care responsibilities? To me it seems nothing short of a confused mess.

Changing times

In 1977 only 50% of married men were part of dual-career households, which has increased today to 75%. To achieve work life balance/integration, whatever you want to call it, women in the 21st century are  being constantly urged to re-negotiate the responsibility for household tasks within their own relationships. This is a key benchmark in the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report and partly accounts for why France  for example despite its progressive employment conditions for women, comes in at the lowly position of 48. They are doing most of the work at home.

But for balance at home to become a reality, men have to then negotiate their own roles with their employers.  An increasing number of men are now citing work/life balance as a major factor in career choice, an element which is strongly endorsed by Gen Y starting out on their careers. Children have two parents even if they don’t live together.

Fatherhood  has been perceived by potential employers as a guarantee of corporate drive and career commitment. On a longer term basis,  a wish for workplace flexibility for family reasons is considered to be  the “mummy track” to career suicide. Men are  frequently advised not to pursue those options, even becoming “supernumerary” following such requests. Single parent fathers with custody obligations and sole responsibility for their children at specific times, are also on the increase, adding to the  numbers for whom flexibility is a need, not a desire.

Skewed odds

So the odds of men achieving  parity in both the home and the workplace are equally skewed. This not just a case of stereotypical macho slothfulness and a desire to watch the World Cup with a beer, or their partners being unwilling to relinquish domestic supremacy, although they can both play a part.

This is about outdated business models and corporate cultures which mitigate against all.

Sweden became the first country to replace maternity leave with parental leave. A study published by the Swedish Institute of Labor Market Policy Evaluation in March 2010 showed, , that a mother’s future earnings increases on average 7% for every month the father takes leave, with penalties and loss of benefits imposed for men who don’t take this leave. Parents may use their 390 days of paid leave however they want up to the child’s eighth birthday — monthly, weekly, daily and even hourly. There has apparently been a commensurate reduction in the divorce rate.

I can’t help but wonder if the very same “think tanks”, with their notable lack of women,  when yobs in hoodies go on the rampage and youth crime soars, will be the very same ones wringing their hands in horror asking ” where are the parents?”

What do you think?

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12 thoughts on “Children: A corporate inconvenience?

  1. Annabel Kaye (@AnnabelKaye)

    It seems you can either have the time or the money! This fascinating study tracks the changes in working time for men and women – and education and skill base seem to be a factor with the less educated working less hours and making less money

    We here more on line from managerial and educated women who are part of the ‘chattering classes’. Perhaps everyone else has gone down the pub?

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