Journal Issue: Work and Family Volume 21 Number 2 Fall 2011
A strong work ethic is a core feature of American culture. Even in this recessionary time, the majority of parents and other caregivers are working, typically long hours. But Americans are also deeply committed to their children and other loved ones. Both mothers and fathers are spending more time with their children today than they did a few decades ago, and time spent caring for or helping the elderly is also on the rise. Parents continue to be the hub of service delivery for their children, providing direct care and coordinating other care, and the same is often true for adults providing care for their parents or other elderly relatives.
It is no wonder, then, that employees are increasingly voicing concerns about having too little time for family life and that both employees and employers are actively exploring ways to create more workplace flexibility. Local, state, and federal governments are also experimenting with new policies to provide benefits such as paid sick leave, paid parental leave, and more extensive support for preschool and school-aged child care. These employer and public policy initiatives reflect a growing recognition that, with more parents working and elder care demands on the rise, policies must adapt.
Although there are no easy solutions to the work-family challenge, the evidence presented in this volume provides useful insights into the types of work-family conflicts American employees are experiencing, as well as the types of employer, governmental, and community policies that might most effectively address them. Particularly promising are employer and governmental initiatives that promote workplace flexibility, provide at least a minimal amount of paid sick leave and other needed leave to all employees, and cover the costs of longer-term leaves to care for newborns or family members with serious illness. Also promising are community initiatives whereby schools, health care, and other service delivery systems acknowledge the realities of American family life and adjust their services to meet the needs of the nation's families and workplaces.