Get 'family-friendly,' or recession will last longer; study concludes

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This article focuses on the importance of family relationships during this ongoing recession and suggests how friendly family relationships can help to weather the recession.  Please read on.
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Get ‘family-friendly,’ or recession will last longer; Employers, government
must repair work-life balance, major study concludes
Kathryn May
Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 22, 2009
 Canada may not pull out of an economic slump unless governments and
employers deal with the crushing workloads that are forcing a growing number
of Canadians to delay or have fewer children, says a leading expert in
balancing work and family life.
Linda Duxbury, a business professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School
of Business, delivered her sixth and final report on work-life balance
yesterday with the warning that the federal government’s stimulus package
should include policies that support working families to get the economy
rolling again.
She argued policy-makers must recognize that heavy workloads and their
interference on family life are key reasons for Canada’s declining birth
rate and labour force. They need to develop strategies, polices and
interventions to help stem this work-life “tsunami.”
“We’re going to hire all these construction workers to buil d roads,
which we need; but what about support for elder care and child care?” she
said in an interview.
“Governments aren’t paying attention to this issue. All the focus is on the
economy and how to stimulate it. … We aren’t paying attention to
fundamental issues like our fertility rates and labour shortages, which are
as big, if not bigger, issues for our long-term competitiveness.”
Ms. Duxbury said her study showed that Canadians are already overworked
because of the massive downsizing of the 1990s as they enter the latest
economic crisis, and the burden will only get worse as the recession
deepens. Employers will cut jobs and lay off workers, which will dump more
work on employees who survive the cuts.
Her previous 2001 study found 60 per cent of working Canadians cannot
balance the demands of their family and work, and it’s typically work, not
family, that takes priority — a trend she predicts will only get worse as
Canadians face the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression.
One in four work more than 50 hours a week — compared to one in 10 in 1991
— and all indications are those working hours will rise as the economy
worsens. One in four also said work interferes with their family
But the survey found that half of Canadians coped with the growing stress
and workload of their jobs by delaying or not having children. Canadians
haven’t been producing the 2.1 children per family needed to repopulate the
country since 1971, and Ms. Druxburty argues that the demands of work — and
bosses’ expectations that work comes first — are a chief reason.
The only way to boost Canada’s fertility rates are by creating
“family-friendly” work cultures backed by social policies that help families
manage, such as better day care and support for elder care.
Ms. Duxbury pointed to Quebec, which boasts some of the best family-friendly
policies in the country and has the highest birth rate.
Ms. Duxbury co-wrote the series of reports, National Study on Balancing Work
and Family, based on a 2001 survey of nearly 33,000 workers.
The survey was commissioned by Health Canada to examine how Canadians are
coping with the demands of their work and family lives. It was conducted by
Ms. Duxbury and Chris Higgins of the University of Western Ontario, and it
surveyed workers in 100 major organizations in the private, public and
not-for-profit sectors. The findings are considered accurate within 1.5
percentage points, 19 times out of 2.
She said the typical response of any company facing the economic crunch is
to lay off people and cut jobs –usually the experienced people who take
critical corporate knowledge with them. This may give employers the
“short-term” bump they need for the balance sheet, but it piles more work on
a smaller, already-overworked staff. On top of that, employers manage their
workers like “liabilities,” such as the federal government’s recent decision
to legislate wage cuts and take
away employees’ right to strike, which saps morale and trust.
When employers finally come out of the recession in a couple of years, they
will have a worn-out workforce, in some cases ready to retire, and they will
have to recruit and retrain in a “sellers market” for labour, Ms. Duxbury
She said employers have dumped the burden of all this additional work and
stress onto employees, forcing them to make sacrifices or cope whatever way
they can: taking prescription drugs, drinking, losing sleep, doing
lower-quality work, giving up social lives and activities, and having fewer
But she argues that reducing workload and the conflict it creates at home
will benefit all Canadians — reduce health costs, increase productivity and
fertility, and improve global competitiveness.
Ms. Duxbury said the time has come for employers and governments to
recognize that “workers are family members and family members are workers.”
She said workload, if left unchecked, will become a critical economic and
social issue as Canada’s population ages. A huge exodus of retiring workers
more strain on the health system and a greater demand for elder care. As
Canadians delay having children, more workers will find themselves
between taking care of children and aging parents.
She said these issues raise “disturbing” questions about Canadians’ values.
“Why is caring for our seniors and children causing so much strain? Why are
Canadian men and women forgoing having families or reducing the number of
they have? Is that the Canada we want? Are we a culture of work or family?”
she said.
&nbs p;
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About Donna Jodhan

Donna Jodhan is an award winning blind author, advocate, sight loss coach, blogger, podcast commentator, and accessibility specialist.
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