Inflexible working hours an obstacle to work–life balance
In 2005, a survey of families and parents with preschool-age children was carried out in Lithuania as part of the implementation of the EQUAL project on reconciling work and family life. The survey aimed to define the needs of such families/parents in balancing work and family duties. It revealed that 76% of employees faced some difficulties in reconciling work and childcare. As a result, the respondents are calling for longer opening hours of preschool education facilities.
Within the framework of implementation of the EU’s EQUAL initiative ‘Forward! Family and work reconciliation development’ (in Lithuanian), a survey of families and parents with children of preschool age was carried out in Lithuania in 2005. The survey looked at the needs of such families/parents in achieving a better reconciliation between family life and career. A sociological opinion poll was used as the main survey methodology. The survey aimed at defining the needs of families/parents with preschool-age children and identifying the problems faced by parents in reconciling work and family responsibilities. The poll covered two groups of respondents, namely the following:
- persons with children of preschool age at home;
- employees of service enterprises with preschool-age children.
The poll covered 129 respondents in Vilnius city and surrounding areas, including 119 women and 10 men.
A targeted selection of respondents was used for the purposes of the survey. Efforts were taken to interview as many individuals as possible from families where one or both parents work in service enterprises, or are beneficiaries of social benefits, and who have preschool-age children. The survey was conducted in March and April 2005.
Characteristics of respondents
Women accounted for 92.2% of the respondents while men represented only 7.8% of the survey participants. Most of the respondents were aged from 18 to 35 years (67%), and 55% of the men and women interviewed were married. Some 87% of the respondents had families with one or two children, including at least one child of preschool age.
As part of the survey, the respondents were asked to describe their employment relations. The results showed that most respondents (68.6%) were employed while 10.1% of respondents were unemployed. Up to 10.9% of the respondents were on childcare leave, and students accounted for 7% of the respondents.
Almost one third of the respondents worked in shifts (28%) or had staggered working hours (28%). In all, 29% of the respondents were employed on a full-time basis and had normal working hours, and 11% were employed in part-time jobs.
Figure 1: Distribution of the respondents by working hours (%)
Main survey findings
The survey demonstrated that about 60% of the respondents avail of childcare services provided by preschool education establishments. Every third respondent received assistance from relatives to cope with childcare responsibilities or cared for their child themselves at home rather than avail of the services of preschool education facilities.
|Kindergartens, assistance from relatives||16|
|Parent takes care of child at home||10|
|Babysitting by relatives||9|
|Hires a babysitter||7|
|Parent takes care of child at home, assistance from relatives||3|
|Parent takes care of child at home, kindergarten services||2|
|Parent takes care of child at home, hires a babysitter||2|
The survey also included questions on whether parents faced difficulties in reconciling their career and childcare responsibilities; as many as 76% of the respondents face this problem, according to the survey findings. One of the issues highlighted in this regard was that the working hours of most of the respondents differed from the opening hours of preschool education facilities; some 72% of the respondents who use the services provided by such establishments gave this answer. In addition, almost 67% of the respondents indicated they had to work on particular holidays and days off when kindergartens were closed.
The respondents were also asked about their preferences regarding opening hours of preschool education establishments in order to be able to reconcile career and family duties. According to the survey, more than half of the interviewed parents (55.8%) would like such facilities to operate from 06.30 until 21.00 five days a week. One fifth of the respondents would like preschool education facilities to be operational 24 hours a day. The respondents believed this would help them to reconcile family responsibilities with work.
The survey also aimed to find out which kind of assistance in relation to household obligations and childcare the respondents needed in order to balance their family life with a professional career. About 23.2% of respondents said that the assistance of social workers would be helpful; 22.2% of the respondents stated that they would need more comprehensive assistance such as social, psychological or legal support.
Rasa Zabarauskaite, Institute of Labour and Social Research