Unequal but balanced: Highly educated mothers’ perceptions of work–life balance during the COVID-19 lockdown in Finland and the Netherlands

Mara A. Yerkes, Chantal Remery, Stéfanie André, Milla Salin, Mia Hakovirta, Minna van Gerven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

One year after the European work–life balance directive, which recognises the need for work–family policy support, measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic began shaping parents’ work–life balance in significant ways. Academically, we are challenged to explore whether existing theoretical frameworks hold in this new environment with combined old and new policy frameworks. We are also challenged to understand the nuanced ways in which the first lockdown affects the combination of paid work and care. We address both of these issues, providing a cross-sectional comparative analysis of highly educated mothers’ perceptions of work–life balance during the COVID-19 pandemic in Finland and the Netherlands. Our findings show that highly educated Finnish mothers have more difficulty combining work and care during the first lockdown than Dutch mothers. The absence of state-provided care during the lockdown creates greater difficulty for full-time working Finnish mothers in a dual-earner/state-carer system than an absence of such care in the Dutch one-and-a-half earner system, where most mothers work part time. Further analyses suggest variation in part-time and (nearly) full-time hours mitigates the work–life balance experiences of highly educated Dutch mothers. Additional factors explaining cross-country variation or similarities include the presence of young children and the presence of a partner. We discuss these findings in light of current theoretical frameworks and highlight avenues for future research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJOURNAL OF EUROPEAN SOCIAL POLICY
Volume32
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Finland
  • lockdown
  • the Netherlands
  • work–care regimes
  • work–life balance

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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