Are parent-friendly policies unfair? A tricky question

It has been argued that parent- or family-friendly work policies are pronatalist.  Alena Heitlinger, for example, has said:

Parental leaves,  childcare services, flexible  work arrangements,  re-entry  training  programs, and  social  security  and   taxation   policies that   do  not  penalize women   for  motherhood  have  been   promoted  as  measures  of equal opportunities for  women,   but  they  can  be  also  seen  as  having  a  pronatal potential, irrespective of the  increase in the  birth  rate  being  an explicit  objective.

Is Heitlinger suggesting that making it easier for people to parent inadvertantly encourages, or at least makes it easier, for people to have children? Likewise, Laura Carroll maintains that government policies are rewarding the wrong people. Instead, of giving tax relief or financial assistance to larger families, for instance, people should be rewarded for not reproducing or for having smaller families. Carroll suggests, by way of example, parent carbon tax and that adoptive parents could recieve significantly larger tax exemptions while parents with only one bio-kid should receive a nominal exemption.

As Heitlinger points out, however, most family-friendly workplace policies emerged in response to women’s entry into the workplace. Motherhood has often acted as a barrier to paid employment, particularly when women in partnerships with men are expected to fulfill the traditional caregiver role and were forced to choose between a career or parenthood.  Would cutting these out mean re/marginalising women?  Many women in heterosexual partnerships, in South Africa at any rate, still do the bulk caregiving. How would sole or gay parents be affected? Or, have we moved beyond these kinds of gender politics?

Some say that we have. They argue that benefits and policies–like paid parental leave or flexi-time and telecommuing for parents–are fundamentally unfair, especially when others at work are required to pick up the slack. For example, in a forum discussion someone maintained that “You [as a childfree person] should not have to experience different treatment because you made a different choice” (Personal Communication, 2012). An article from BBC News quotes ‘non-parents’ responses to a survey about family-friendly policies:

One manager told the [researchers]: “I do not have children and sometimes resent the emphasis put on people who do being the only ones who want more time at home.  I have commitments and a life too, and I would like family-friendly policies to be home-friendly policies instead.”

A woman manager … said: “People who don’t have children resent the things they miss out on, such as maternity/paternity leave, and sick leave taken as a result of problems with children.”

Another manager said: “People who choose not to have families do so for good reasons and it is unfair to burden them with additional work so others can have additional benefits.”

What do you think about family-friendly workplace policy?

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This entry was posted in Thoughts and Opinions, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Are parent-friendly policies unfair? A tricky question

  1. Alice Longworth says:

    FAMILY friendly policies are not unfair – PARENT friendly ARE.

  2. @Alice: Yes, I quite agree, I think that perhaps we should broaden our understanding of ‘family’. Family responsibility leave could be taken regardless of who your dependants are + regardless of gender. I SA we have 4 months maternity leave and 2 weeks paternity leave, but I say do away with this + incorporate in family leave policy (with special consideration for pregnancy perhaps).

  3. Pingback: Children in the baggage hold? | The Childfree Choice

  4. Pingback: Going green / being childfree – what’s the connection really? | The Childfree Choice

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