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Patterns of paid and unpaid work in Western Europe: gender, commodification, preferences and the implications for policy

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This article explores how parents in couple families reconcile employment and child-care, and how far the current emphasis of EU-level policy on enhancing the formal provision of child-care fits with patterns and/or preferences in Western European member states. We use European Social Survey data from 2004—05 on working patterns and preferences, and on child-care use and preferences regarding the amount of formal provision. We find that working hours remain a very important dimension of work/family reconciliation practices, with large differences in both patterns and preferences. There is very little evidence of convergence towards a dual, full-time worker model family outside the Nordic countries, although the balance between the hours which men and women spend in paid work is becoming less unequal. The part that kin (partners and grandparents) play in providing child-care remains important in all but three countries, and, for the most part, mothers report that they are content with the amount of formal child-care available. We suggest that work/family reconciliation measures need to encompass a more extended policy package, the components of which are likely to be specific to member states.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/21909/

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