Family-work alliance ” “

Reconciling professional and family life. 2014 COFACE initiatives

Since 2011 the issue of reconciling work and family life has been at the basis of the activities of the Confederation of Family Organisations in the European Union (COFACE), which should have led to recognize the year 2014 as the European Year dedicated to this issue, given the broad support received at the time by a large number of MEPs. At the last moment however the EU Commission, with a view to the upcoming European elections, preferred to extend the Year dedicated to EU citizenship, proclaimed in 2013, to raise awareness on rights and responsibilities of citizens, so that they may vote in May prepared and aware of the issue. But this won’t stop the actions and initiatives planned by COFACE for 2014. Indeed, the present year also marks the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family promoted by the United Nations. For this purpose, on January 23 a set of initiatives in support of the cause were presented at the European Parliament. Social policies in the EU. “We are aware that we are moving towards a society in which we live longer, in which women have chosen to have fewer children and at an older age, and in which everyone needs a job to maintain satisfying living standards”, the promoters explained”.The convergence of all these trends – COFACE continues – is based on different choices of living”. Experts take into account the question of employment and income, working hours, the role of women and men in social and professional realms, the traditional and new forms of affection and family ties, the crucial question of child education, the role of older people in society and in the family. The complex issue of family policies will be the main theme of the debates, meetings and events tabled for 2014, thanks to meetings involving NGOs, policy makers, decision makers, researchers, trade unions, to reflect and analyze the peculiarities underlying labour market, related policies and practices, in order to strike a balance between work, productivity, safety and a decent quality of life that does not neglect the wellbeing of the people and of households. The burden of the economic crisis. Among the initiatives already planned, COFACE highlighted the conference scheduled for April 29 in Athens, under the auspices of the Greek six-month presidency of the EU, with the theme “Families in crisis”. The purpose of the initiative is to convey “full solidarity to countries experiencing severe austerity measures, whilst showing that families can survive and maintain a good quality of life even in the current difficult economic downturn”. The Athens conference will focus in particular on austerity measures and cuts to social services such as childcare, family solidarity in times of crisis and prospects for young people and their future families. Towards a new balance. On 8 and 9 September, within the framework of the Year dedicated to the reconciliation of work and family life, in Helsinki will be held a Forum of European employers of the private and public sectors. Participants will seek to give concrete answers to the lack of a proper balance between work and family life. The third major event of the ‘year will take place in November, probably in Milan, during the Italian Presidency. On that occasion, the focus will be on how to tackle economic and financial problems, providing valuable tools “to spend less, spend better”. All initiatives will be updated on the blog, “especially in the light of new alliances and networks due to be created over the coming months to support the right to strike a balance” between the workplace and home, COFACE said. “Freeing” Sunday. These very topics and objectives are also shared by European Sunday Alliance, which organized on 21 January at the European Parliament a conference in Brussels to reaffirm the importance of “work-free Sunday” and “decent working time” for citizens throughout Europe”.The economic and financial crisis – explained the promoters – has overshadowed the social reforms in the EU and now we have to face numerous challenges such as demographic change, unemployment especially among the youth, poverty and social exclusion””.Employment, job creation, along with economic competitiveness, have become top priorities, but what kind of work do we need in Europe? We believe – concluded the organizers of the initiative – that competitiveness needs innovation, innovation needs creativity and creativity needs recreation”. At the end of the conference was presented an appeal-commitment signed by a group of MEPs, to promote in the next term interventions that protect weekly rest, “preferably on a Sunday”, along with working schedules that can be reconciled with a normal domestic life.

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