European & International News

Working time in the EU: Women still bear the ’double burden’

[Brussels, 17 February 2012] On average, around three times as many women work part time as do men, mainly to facilitate the domestic and care responsibilities which still fall mainly on women. When their unpaid work in the home is factored in, however, women working part time work nearly as many hours per week (55) as do men working full time (56). Women who work full time have a total working week of 66 hours, in average.

The extent to which the ’double burden’ still impacts the lives of women in the EU is one of the findings of the recent Eurofound study ’Working time in the EU’.

The study points out that the fact that the bulk of domestic work is still done by women in part encourages many women to take part-time employment. The fact that so many women work part time has substantial implications for their current income and future material prosperity: a lower income translates into lower social security contributions and a lower eventual pension pay-out.

The study proposes that an improved infrastructure (in the form of childcare facilities and afterschool care, for instance) could help facilitate the entry of more women into fulltime employment, if so desired, and where available. Given the growth in part-time employment, encouraging more men into part-time work could be a practical option, particularly where it takes the form of a four-day week of full working days; this may promote the image of part-time work as a viable career option. Other practices could include also flexible working, emergency leave and such social security measures as the Belgian example of funded childcare for a sick child after the second day of illness.

In addition, for both men and women, working time accounts could help balance time needs over the life course, granting more free time during the childrearing years, for instance, and an extended period of
employment later in the working life.

Read the full study on the Eurofound website!

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