De Economist

, Volume 153, Issue 4, pp 399–423 | Cite as

Balancing Work and Family Life during the Life Course



This paper discusses how work and family obligations can be better reconciled in EU countries by adopting a life-course perspective. It stresses that longer and deeper involvement in paid employment allows people to exploit their longer life to reconcile the two ambitions of, first, investing in the next generation as a parent and, second, pursuing a fulfilling career in paid work. Greater flexibility of working time over the life course requires more individual responsibility for financing leave. Moreover, rather than shielding older insiders through employment protection, labor-market institutions should enable parents of young children to easily enter and remain in the labor market. Finally, more activating social assistance and in-work benefits should replace passive income support for breadwinners.


breadwinner children fertility human capital life course retirement 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adsera, A. 2004aChanging Fertility Rates in Developed Countries. The Impact of Labor Market InstitutionsJournal of Population Economics171743Google Scholar
  2. Adsera, A. (2004b), ‘Where are the Babies? Labor Market Conditions and Fertility in Europe,’ IZA Discussion Paper.Google Scholar
  3. Albrecht, J.W., Edin, P.A., Sundstrom, M., Vroman, S.B. 1999Career Interruptions and Subsequent Earnings: A Reexamination Using Swedish DataJournal of Human Resources34294311Google Scholar
  4. Aghion, P., Hermalin, B. 1990Legal Restrictions on Private Contracts can Enhance EfficiencyJournal of Law, Economics, and Organization6381409Google Scholar
  5. Auerbach, A.J., Kotlikoff, L.J., Leibfritz, W. 1999Generational Accounting around the WorldUniversity of Chicago PressChicagoGoogle Scholar
  6. Bovenberg, A.L. and B. Jacobs (2001), ‘Redistribution and Education Subsidies are Siamese Twins,’ CEPR Discussion Paper No. 3099.Google Scholar
  7. Burniaux, J.M., R. Duval, and F. Jaumotte (2004), ‘Coping with Ageing: A Dynamic Approach to Quantify the Impact of Alternative Policy Options on Future Labour Supply in OECD Countries,’ OECD Economics Department Working Paper No. 371.Google Scholar
  8. Council of Economic Advisors1997The First Three Years: Investments that PayExecutive Office of the PresidentWashington DCGoogle Scholar
  9. Esping-Andersen, G. (1990), The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
  10. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions2003A New Organization of Time over Working LifeOffice for Official Publications of the European CommissionLuxembourgGoogle Scholar
  11. Folster, S., R. Gidehag, M. Orszag, and D. Snower (2002), ‘Assessing Welfare Accounts,’ CEPR Discussion Paper No. 3479.Google Scholar
  12. Gruber, J. 1994The Incidence of Mandated Maternity BenefitsAmerican Economic Review84622641Google Scholar
  13. Haveman, R., Wolfe, B. 1995The Determination of Children’s Attainment: A Review of Methods and FindingsJournal of Economic Literature3318291878Google Scholar
  14. Heckman, J.J., Lochner, L., Taber, C. 1998Explaining Rising Wage Inequality: Explorations with a Dynamic General Equilibrium Model of Earnings with Heterogeneous AgentsReview of Economic Dynamics1158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Heckman, J.J. 2000Policies to Foster Human CapitalResearch in Economics54356Google Scholar
  16. Jaumotte, F., (2003), ‘Female Labour Force Participation: Past Trends and Main Determinants in OECD Countries,’ OECD Economics Department Working Paper No. 376, Paris.Google Scholar
  17. Kugler, A. and G. Pica, (2003), ‘Effects of Employment Protection and Product Market Regulations on the Italian Labor Matket,’ IZA Discussion Paper No. 948.Google Scholar
  18. Kunze, A. (2003), ‘The Timing of Working Career and Depreciation of Human Capital due to Different Types of Interruptions,’ IZA Discussion Paper.Google Scholar
  19. Lindbeck, A. 1997Incentives and Social Norms in Household BehaviorAmerican Economic Review87370377Google Scholar
  20. Lindbeck, A., Snower, D.J. 2000Multi-Task Learning and the Reorganization of Work: From Tayloristic to Holistic OrganizationJournal of Labor Economics18353376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lunqvist, L., Sargent, T.J. 1998The European Unemployment DilemmaJournal of Political Economy106514550Google Scholar
  22. Nesporova, A. (2002), ‘Why Unemployment Remains so High in Central and Eastern Europe,’ Employment Paper 2002/43, International Labour Office, Geneva.Google Scholar
  23. OECD (2001), ‘Balancing Work and Family Life: Helping Parents into Paid Employment,’ Chapter 4 in OECD Employment Outlook 2001, Paris.Google Scholar
  24. OECD (2002), ‘Women at Work: Who are They and How are They Faring?’ Chapter 2 in OECD Employment Outlook 2002, Paris.Google Scholar
  25. OECD (2003a), ‘Babies and Bosses. Reconciling Work and Family Life,’ Vol. 2, Paris.Google Scholar
  26. OECD (2003b), ‘Upgrading Workers’ Skills and Competencies,’ Chapter 5 in OECD Employment Outlook 2003, Paris.Google Scholar
  27. Orszag, J.M. and D. Snower (1997), ‘Expanding the Welfare System: A Proposal for Reform,’ CEPR Discussion Paper No. 1674.Google Scholar
  28. Ruhm, C.J. 1998The Economic Consequences of Parental Leave Mandates: Lessons from EuropeQuarterly Journal of Economics113285317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ruhm, C.J. 2000Parental Leave and Child HealthJournal of Health Economics19931960CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ruhm, C.J. (2002), ‘Parental Employment and Child Cognitive Development,’ Mimeo, University of North Carolina, Greensboro (also National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 7666).Google Scholar
  31. Sandmo, A. 1990Tax Distortions and Household ProductionOxford Economic Papers427890Google Scholar
  32. Stiglitz, J. and J. Yun (2002), ‘Integration of Unemployment Insurance with Retirement Insurance,’ NBER Working Paper No. 9199.Google Scholar
  33. Unicef, (1999), ‘Women in Transition,’ The MONEE Project Regional Monitoring Report No. 6, Florence, Italy.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NetsparTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations