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Balanced participation of women and men in family and working life

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Balanced participation of women and men in family and working life

The Council encourages Member States to define strategies aiming to promote balanced participation of women and men in family and working life.


Resolution of the Council and of the Ministers for Employment and Social Policy, meeting within the Council of 29 June 2000, on the balanced participation of women and men in family and working life [Official Journal C 218 of 31.7.2000].


This resolution follows on from the Lisbon European Council (23-24 March 2000), which recognised the importance of furthering all aspects of equal opportunities, including making it easier to reconcile working and family life.

The principle of equality between men and women makes it essential to offset the disadvantage faced by women with regard to conditions for access to and participation in the labour market and the disadvantage faced by men with regard to participating in family life. These gender-based disadvantages result from predetermined social models that tend to presuppose that women are chiefly responsible for unpaid work related to looking after a family. On the other hand, paid work derived from an economic activity tends to be seen to be mainly the responsibility of men.

The balanced participation of women and men on the labour market and in family life is essential to the development of society. Maternity, paternity and the rights of children are essential values that need to be safeguarded by society, the Member States and the European Community.

The objective of balanced participation of men and women in family and working life, coupled with the objective of balanced participation of men and women in the decision-making process, constitute two particularly relevant conditions for equal opportunities.

The Member States are encouraged to develop global, integrated strategies that take account of the following aspects:

  • examine the scope for granting working men a right to paternity leave, maintaining their rights relating to employment, and rights likely to allow them to provide major support for family life;
  • reinforce measures to encourage balanced sharing between working men and women of the care to be provided for children, elderly, disabled or other dependent persons;
  • reinforce measures to encourage the development of support services for families, especially the improvement of child-care structures;
  • grant, where appropriate, specific protection to single-parent families;
  • examine the possibility of harmonising school and working hours (by organising school programmes);
  • develop incentives and support measures for non-governmental organisations committed to promoting equal opportunities;
  • devise, launch and promote information and awareness campaigns to develop more progressive outlooks among both the general public and specific target groups;
  • encourage businesses, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, to introduce and develop management practices that take account of their workers’ family life.

As employers, the institutions and bodies of the European Community are called on to implement measures to promote the balanced recruitment and career advancement of men and women and to evaluate the results thereof periodically and to have them published.

The Commission is called on to take into consideration the conclusions of the new Community framework strategy on equality between women and men. Within the framework of Community programmes, it is also called on to step up its information and awareness effort and its efforts to promote research and to introduce pilot schemes to implement the balanced participation of men and women in family and working life. It is also encouraged to take account of this resolution in its fifth action programme ifth action programme on equal opportunities for men and women. This will involve placing emphasis on equality of family responsibilities of men and women in the strategic objectives of the programme and giving sufficient prominence to measures to promote the balanced participation of men and women in working and family life.

At national and European level, employers in the public and private sectors, workers and the social partners are called on to step up their efforts to ensure balanced participation of men and women in family and working life, notably through the organisation of working time and the abolition of conditions which lead to wage differentials between men and women.


The reconciliation of family and working life was the priority topic in the calls for proposals launched under the fifth Community action programme on equal opportunities for men and women.

Improved reconciliation of family and working life is one of the guidelines of the European Employment Strategy and is included in the common objectives of the European social inclusion process (combating of poverty and social exclusion).


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 3 October 2008 – A better work-life balance: stronger support for reconciling professional, private and family life [COM(2008) 635 – Not published in the Official Journal]. This communication analyses the policies and measures taken on national and Community levels to help citizens to balance their professional and family lives. It presents the measures of the “reconciliation package”.

The reconciliation of these two aspects by European citizens may indeed have an impact on European strategies for growth and jobs, social inclusion and gender equality. It may also have a positive influence on birth rates.

The Commission is presenting two new legislative proposals, corresponding to the objectives of the Renewed Social Agenda. In particular with regard to the revision of measures concerning family-related leave (such as maternity leave, Directive 92/8/EEC) and equal treatment of self-employed workers and their assisting spouses (Directive 86/613/EEC). Moreover, the “reconciliation package” also contains a report on the implementation by Member States of targets in terms of childcare services.

In addition, the Commission must encourage the exchange of experience and good practices in these domains, as wells as statistics on a Europe-wide basis. It supports the co-financing initiatives of the Cohesion Policy and in particular the European Social Fund (ESF).

Last updated: 19.01.2009