A better reconciliation of work and family life
The seminar held in Paris on the 5th-6th November 2013 focused on parenting in France and displayed a wide range of facilities for a better reconciliation of work and private life. The reviewed French good practices show a set of different tools aimed at developing a diversified childcare supply to make it easier for women and men to achieve a better balance between professional and family life.
The national website was designed in 2009 by the National Fund for Family Allocations (CNAF) with the main aim to inform families as well as professionals about childcare facilities and activities available throughout France. It provides the contact details of more than 135,000 accredited child-minders. The second practice presented focussed on the role of child-minders, a widely used form of paid childcare in France. Child-minders are trained professionals offering fee-based childcare, usually in their homes or at child-minder facilities. In order to facilitate information and exchange between parents and child-minders, so called ‘child-minding teams’ have been developed. These teams also support child-minders in their professional activities, for example through training and monitoring activities. To ensure quality care, the occupation of child-minder is governed by law.
Finally, the Special Employer Cheque (CESU) was presented. The service voucher is offered to individuals to regulate personal and home-aid services, including for instance the payment of child-minders, at-home child care or home schooling. The CESU entitles beneficiaries to tax benefits. It also helps to reduce illegal work in these sectors.
In addition to the French practices, the results of a study on economic and budgetary effects from improved childcare provision in Austria were presented. The study made clear that investment in childcare pays off medium-term. The high employment effects were particularly stressed, since investment in childcare creates additional employment in several ways: direct (e.g. additional child carers, jobs in training etc.), indirect (additional income resulting in more consumption) and through enabling parents (particularly mothers) to work or work more. The study therefore concludes that the reconciliation of work and family life is crucial for female employment and competitiveness and that the long-term effects through early education for children would make the returns even higher.
Seminar participants particularly praised the great diversity of childcare services in France, thereby increasing the freedom of choice for parents, and the information and quality assurance system. The discussions furthermore focussed on increasing awareness of the impact the availability of childcare services has on increasing women’s economic independence and on supporting economic growth. Likewise, the importance of involving men in the debate on achieving a better work-life balance was stressed.