Strategies to Achieving a Work-Life Balance
Tequesquitengo, Mexico, 9 April 2011
From their historical and stereotypical role as carers and household managers, women have joined the labour market in ever-increasing numbers in recent years. The transition or passage between productive and reproductive work, is marked by tension between the amount of time allocated to the family, unpaid work, and the time allocated to generating income, which at the same time allows for better standards of living, as well as providing access to goods and services.
In order to “reconcile” these tensions between divergent contexts and realities, women have been obliged to deploy a series of reconciliation strategies, which include working a double day and strictly controlling their working hours. Some of these strategies are not carried out by choice, in the sense of looking at all the options and choosing the best one. Similar to survival strategies, reconciliation strategies are built by means of individual and collective action taken on a day-to-day basis.
The challenge, therefore, is not only to allow women to access the labour market, which is traditionally defined by male parameters, but also to redefine the tension between productive and reproductive work, so that both women and men can play a leading role in both areas. This requires the introduction of public policies by the state to ensure that all social, economic and political actors take action to achieve a work-life balance. This can be achieved by organising the social and economic system favouring the provision of the necessary infrastructures for care facilities for children, the elderly and the disabled, in such a way that women and men can reconcile the various aspects of their lives: work, family and leisure time, and this way make it easier to achieve true equality between women and men.
Achieving a work-life balance contributes to building a society based on quality of life, ensuring that women and men have the same opportunities in all areas of their lives, progress professionally, fulfil family responsibilities and enjoy their family and personal life.
Therefore, to achieve a work-life balance it is necessary to address the following issues:
• The development of resources and social structures that allow dependents (children, elderly, sick and disabled) to be cared for;
• The reorganisation of working hours and workplace;
• The establishment of measures in the workplace to allow people to develop throughout the various phases of their lives and
• The transformation of the traditional roles of women and men, with regards to their involvement in the family, the home and at work.
Social change cannot take place without the support of specific laws that introduce new models of organisation. In order for this to happen, it is essential for all stakeholders to take responsibility by accepting and playing a specific role in developing different measures and strategies aimed at seeking harmony between the interests and needs of women and men.