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Journal Article

Managing the family: productivity, scheduling and the male veto


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This paper argues that research, analysis and policy innovations focused on how households combine paid work with care responsibilities are driven to too great a degree by preconceptions of “the problem” that do not take sufficient account of how families themselves understand their work and care roles and the choices they are making. The evidence of> 246 SOCCARE interviews across five European countries (Finland, France, Italy, Portugal and the UK ) is that the variables that are conventionally accepted as having fundamental significance (family-friendly policies and generous care services, flexible working hours, women’s work-life preferences, family type, national labour markets, cultural differences) are less important than is often suggested. More important are time pressures and the idiosyncratic factors that constrain the work and care timetables that families are able to construct. We characterize these as “scheduling problems”. They occupied a large part of the accounts of their lives provided by our respondents and are a primary dimension within which their combinations of paid work and care responsibilities need to be understood. The difficulties our respondents faced in coordinating the work and care activities of their families bear a striking similarity to the problems described in the operations research literature on small businesses. Within the context of these scheduling problems a second important factor emerged: the preferences and behaviour of men who played a critical, though often passive, part in the construction of work and care timetables of the families. We characterize this effect as the “the male veto”.

Published in

Social Policy & Administration


38 (6):706-720


Labour Market, Households, Social Policy, and Caregiving



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