The University of Edinburgh -

Working Papers on the Reconciliation of Work and Welfare in Europe

REC-WP 11 / 09

The Relationship between Family and Work: Tensions, Paradigms and Directives.

Trudie Knijn and Arnoud Smit

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After decades of promoting the reconciliation of work and family life from a gender-equality perspective, to date discourses and related social policy paradigms replace and reframe the once European agenda on gender-equality and put the gender issue in a much broader policy agenda of new social risks. This working paper first states that a gender-neutral social policy on reconciliation of work and family life stagnates because of four crucial dilemmas.  New social policy paradigms have developed since the 1990s, each having particular assumptions on risk-sharing, public and private responsibility and the position of the individual vis-à-vis the state and the community. These paradigms will be analysed in relation to the European Union policies regarding reconciliation of work and family life. We will detect some traces of these paradigms in the Lisbon agreements and its amendments. We will conclude that indeed the gender-equality agenda, as well as family life, has been submitted to the new convention of the competitive knowledge based economy; The social investment paradigm is the most prominent of the three paradigms in this new agenda, however it is mixed up with elements from the other paradigms and therefore current policies agendas lack coherence.


New social risks, gender dilemmas, policy paradigms, EU reconciliation policies