Balancing Work and Family: Global Differences and Similarities

Topic(s): conflict, culture, gender
Publication: Applied Psychology: An International Review (2013)
Article: International Perspectives on Work and Family: An Introduction to the Special Section
Authors: Wendy J. Casper, Tammy D. Allen, Steven A. Y. Poelmans
Reviewed by: Arlene Coelho

With a global surge in the number of women entering the work force, the need for studying the issues associated with balancing work and family has increased dramatically.

In a crisp article by authors W. J. Casper, T. D. Allen, and S. A. Y Poelmans, four papers were reviewed, which collectively provided a comprehensive understanding of the differences and similarities between work and family interactions, conflicts, and other related issues. The current paper sheds light on how culture, gender equality, and personal vs. supervisor perceptions influence the work–family balance globally.

The first paper found that paid sick leave had a small, yet profitable effect on work and family conflict among married couples with children under the age of five. Other leaves studied included annual paid leave and paid parental leave, which were considered more effective when there existed some degree of “family-supportive organizational perspectives” among employees. In essence, when employees were made to feel like their organization cared about and supported their family life, the paid leaves were observed to be more effective.

The second paper studied work–home interference and satisfaction with work–family balance among European countries where there was a difference in gender equality among professionals and non–professionals. The study found that professionals had lower levels of satisfaction with work–family balance than non-professionals. Countries with greater gender equality generally employed more organizational support for work– family balance than countries with lower levels of gender equality.

The third paper explored the differences between individualistic and collectivistic cultures in terms of decision-making freedom for work–family conflict. Results showed that in individualistic cultures, the increased latitude for making these decisions made work-family conflicts easier to resolve.

The last paper reviewed how managers and employees in countries with varying gender equality perceived the work-life balance. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study revealed that countries low on gender equality showed a lower work-life balance for women than men. One interesting fact that emerged was that the overall culture was determined more by how those in supervisory roles perceived work-life balance than the perceptions women held on the subject.

The various dimensions of balancing work and family life that were reviewed in the article provide a more comprehensive understanding of how this balance differs from culture to culture. The resulting data will not only help organizations to better understand their employees’ needs, but will also lend support to working professionals who are currently struggling with balancing work and family.