Attending WFRN – Day 1

Today, I attended the first day of the inaugural conference of the Work and Family Researchers Network (WFRN). It was a day full of the most amazing presentations, discussions, and meetings, all focused on topics related to work and family.

The WFRN facilitates virtual and face-to-face interaction among work and family researchers from a broad range of fields and engages the next generation of work and family scholars. As a global hub, [the WFRN] provide[s] opportunities for information sharing and networking via [their] website, which includes the only open access work and family subject matter repository, the Work and Family Commons.

The WFRN is a member driven researchers’ network, carrying on the legacy of the Sloan Network. This means that members can influence the ntwork’s policy, as well as appoint who’s in charge. Also, the network is independent from external funding, providing a good amount of opportunities to determine it’s own course.

I’ve so many interesting stuff, that I cannot share all of it. But here’s a selection of things I found interesting. In a session on family interactions and Gender Dynamics in the Household, analyses using time diary data were presented. Leah Ruppanner showed us a very nice macro-micro perspective, presenting how women spend more time on housework than men do, and that those women with more resources spend less time on housework. In addition, men spend more time on housework in metropolitan areas where women have a strong social position. So, gender equality on local labor market extends beyond the workplace to the home. Katie Genadek presented how the amount of time spouses spend together drops with young children in the household, to increase again when children grow older. Men and women report being more happy when spending an activity with their spouse. This, of course, has very interesting implications for the recent debate on whether having children contribute to your happiness, or not.

In a session on policies and contexts, making international comparisons, some interesting research was shown. Sue Yeandle presented how care responsibilities are concentrated in ages 40-60. Both men and women provide lots of care, and women somewhat more. However, at later ages men provide more care than women do. Caregiving has labour market consequences, as employment drops with increased intensity of caring. Tania van der Lippe made the argument that the work-family not only results in conflicts (as is studied so often), but also has positive effects on quality of life. It turns out, however, that the work-family conflicts have a stronger negative association with quality of life, whereas work-family enrichment has a weaker positive association with quality of life.

During a session on earnings and careers, I learned from a presentation by Michelle Budig that reconciliation policies (leave, childcare) are more effective in countries with a liberal population, compared to in a conservative population. So, as she concludes, policy and culture need to align for maximum effectiveness. Finally, Marie Evertsson studied the impact of work interruptions (e.g. Due to care, unemployment) on women’s future employment opportunities. Human capital deprecating during the work interruptions may be one factor influencing women’s career prospects after an interruption, but it turned out not to be the dominant one. Clear differences were found between Sweden, Germany, and the Unite States.

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