In the context of the increasing involvement of women in working life, the reconciliation of family and work has been at the forefront of family policy discussions across Europe. The focus of reconciliation policies on mothers has recently widened to include fathers and caring relatives.
Reconciling family and work is a double-edged issue that needs to be approached from two directions: time for work and time for the family. More time for work is achieved by expanding the care infrastructure for children and those in need of care. Parental and care leave schemes in turn offer more time for the family.
In 2019, the Work-Life Balance Directive was adopted. The EU Member States implemented the directive into national law by 2 August 2022.
- European Care Strategy for Social Justice and Gender Equality
- Carer's allowance: paying family caregivers for care
- Reconciliation of Elderly Care and Work
- Counselling services for (working) family carers
- Young Carers
- Aims and Requirements of Work-life Balance Policies from a Gender Equality Perspective
- Father Involvement in Family Work
- Holiday Allowance for Families
European Care Strategy for Social Justice and Gender EqualityAt the end of 2022, the European Union adopted a European Care Strategy. This should cover the need for action for people with care responsibilities and people in need of care, from childcare to long-term care. The aim is to strengthen gender equality and social fairness.
Please note that the focus issue is only published in German.
Carer's allowance: paying family caregivers for care
Internal research by the Observatory (not published) from November 2022 dealt with the so-called carer's allowance. This is a financial benefit for family caregivers, which in theory is based on a 20- to 40-hours week on basis of the minimum wage. In contrast, the wage replacement benefit for family caregivers is lower as a financial benefit, as it is based on the parental allowance and can comprise 65 to 100 per cent of the previous year’s net salary (DIW Berlin 2022: 4).
The research shows that the carer’s allowance is partially offered in three European countries: Since 2019 family caregivers in Austria in the canton of Burgenland can be employed in the so-called Burgenland-Modell after a basic training course and receive a carer’s allowance. In Denmark, people who care for a seriously ill, dying or disabled relative can receive a carer‘s allowance. The amount depends on various factors and is paid out by the municipality where the care takes place. In Switzerland, family carers can be employed by the Caritas in the cantons of Luzern and Zug. From 2023 onwards, an expansion to further cantons is envisaged. With Solicare this model already exists in 16 other cantons. In both Swiss models, the family carers are regularly visited by qualified nursing professionals for quality assurance. In addition, the residence of the family member providing care must be in one of the approved cantons. In Germany, the social association VdK has dealt with this topic in a study. However, according to the coalition agreement of the federal government, a wage replacement benefit for family carers in case of care-related time off is planned.
Reconciliation of Elderly Care and Work
More and more people are working and at the same time looking after children or relatives in need of care. How do policies support these people to handle this double burden? The Observatory takes up this question and conducts comprehensive research on the issue.
Counselling services for (working) family carersIn Europe, the largest proportion of people in need of care are supported and cared for at home by (caring) relatives – an often exhausting task that has increased in intensity due to the coronavirus pandemic and at times many closed support services. Many family carers find it difficult to distance themselves or ask for help when they are overwhelmed by the situation. They are especially reliant on information and counselling on care issues. Therefore, good counselling structures are needed to support caring relatives in a preventive way, but also in an overload situation, to organise their own lives – also alongside employment and childcare – and to organise informal care well.
In 2018, the Observatory published a Working Paper that provides an overview of counselling services and counselling structures in the field of age and care in the EU member states Sweden, Austria, France and Scotland (as part of the United Kingdom).
Furthermore, an overview by the Observatory produced in July 2021 (not published) shows that there are a variety of information and counselling services for family carers in Austria and Switzerland. Counselling structures that support reconciliation can be found increasingly in Switzerland. One explanation for this could be that the need is higher in Switzerland, as the proportion of working carers is considerably higher than in Austria. However, the majority of counselling services for family carers focus on the care (situation), disability or illness as the trigger for the need for counselling.