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?