Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that while flexible working arrangements are becoming more widely available, there is much room for improvement. “We need to respond to the ever-changing complexities of work and family life,” he said in a message to mark the International Day of Families, observed annually on 15 May.
“The aim is to help workers everywhere provide for their families financially and emotionally, while also contributing to the socio-economic development of their societies,” said Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday, highlighting the need for work-family balance for the benefit of families and society at large.
The UN chief noted that current trends underscore the growing importance of work-family policies. These include greater participation by women in the labour market, and growing urbanization and mobility in search for jobs.
“As families become smaller and generations live apart, extended kin are less available to offer care, and employed parents face rising challenges,” he said.
A number of countries offer generous leave provisions for mothers and fathers, noted Mr. Ban. Many more, however, extend few comprehensive benefits in line with international standards, he added, noting that paternity leave provisions are still rare in the majority of developing countries.
Mr. Ban welcomed the establishment of family-friendly workplaces through parental leave provisions, flexible working arrangements and better childcare, saying that such policies and programmes are critical to enhancing the work-family balance. In addition, these actions can also lead to better working conditions, greater employee health and productivity, and a more concerted focus on gender equality.
“Work-family balance policies demonstrate both a government’s commitment to the well-being of families and the private sector’s commitment to social responsibility,” he said.
At the same time, he highlighted that while flexible working arrangements, including staggered working hours, compressed work schedules or telecommuting, are becoming more widely available, there is much room for improvement everywhere.
“I am committed to this in our own Organization, where we are currently looking at our own arrangements, and seeing what we can do better,” said Mr. Ban.
Economic and emotional aspects
Work-family balance lies at the core of the ability of the family to provide economically and emotionally for its members. A variety of strategies to help families cope with work and family responsibilities is being used around the world. In the majority of developing countries, however, reconciliation of work and family life policies competes with a large number of development priorities.
Moreover, access to work-family balance support systems is chiefly in the formal and regulated labour markets while many workers in the informal sector face not only family-unfriendly but also dangerous work environments. Global employment protection is then needed to secure better working conditions, especially for poor working families.