Report | Wages, Incomes, and Wealth

The work-family balance: An analysis of European, Japanese, and U.S. work-time policies

Briefing Paper #189

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During the past 25 years, the workforce participation of women has increased substantially throughout the industrialized countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In the United States, for example, the employment rate of women increased from 47.5% in 1979 to 56.0% in 2004. Currently, in most OECD countries, the majority of couples with children have both parents in the workforce; single mothers’ employment rates generally exceed those of married mothers. As a result, parents throughout these countries are struggling to balance the demands of employment with the needs of their families. Policy makers have been forced to tackle a range of problems: insufficient parental time spent with their children; excessive stress on working parents; gender imbalances in the workplace and in caregiving; and financial burdens imposed by the high cost of quality child care.