Families in the Crisis: Finding work-life balance in difficult economic context

The first official event of the Year of Reconciling Work and Family Life was held on 29th April in Athens under the Greek Presidency of the European Union. The event started with an opening speech delivered by László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion who acknowledged the difficult situation families got into as a result of the crisis and austerity measures, but at the same time emphasised that families - including parents - are in the focus of policy makers in Europe. The basis of the conference was the new publication of Eurofound, Quality of life in Europe: Families in the economic crisis.

The new report summarising the results of the 3rd European Quality of Life Survey had just left the printing press on the day of the conference. The survey results clearly show and the speakers of the conference all stressed that it was children and women who were most effected by the crisis. As a result of cuts in funding services and also in financial support has make the life of families difficult and as nobody knows when the difficulties will end, it is more and more difficult for families to cope. You can download the full publication here.
The conference dealt with three main topics in three breakout sessions. One was dealing with the long-term impact of the crisis on women, namely employment and health. The second was looking into matters of employment, legal and financial trends. The third was showing alternatives to ordinary services to families, especially in the fields of childcare, caring for the elderly and the disabled. EPA wanted to offer a presentation on peer support of parents and alternative services within educational institutions as the place where children aged 3-18 spend a lot of time, as it was greatly missing, but there was no opportunity. However some examples that were presented reinforced the EPA opinion that these two options are the most easily available and cost-effective service alternatives.
For EPA the most important result of the conference was that there was an opportunity to ask Commissioner Andor to include EPA as a stakeholder representative in social issues just as we are involved in education. He was very interested in our work and open to cooperation. The Commissioner acknowledged that through the members of EPA it is possible to reach out to more European than through most of their social partners and the value of this widespread network. It seems that the previously iron-clad wall between education and social branches of the EU is really falling down.
The conference was co-organised by COFACE and its Greek member organisation, KMOP.  The next official event of the EY2014 will be held in Helsinki on 8-9 September.

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