Does an improvement in work-family balance increase life satisfaction? Evidence from 27 European countries

Anna Matysiak, Warsaw School of Economics
Ariane Pailhé, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Anne Solaz, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Daniele Vignoli, University of Florence

Better reconciliation of work and family life has increasingly been recognised as stimulating employment and fertility. In this paper we demonstrate that a better work-family balance can also contribute to an improvement in subjective well-being. Although a wide range of institutional, economic and ecological factors have been suggested as determinants of life satisfaction, the impact of work- family tensions on life satisfaction has been rarely addressed. For our analyses we used data from the second European Quality of Life Survey, carried out by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions in 27 European countries. The use of internationally comparable data allowed us to investigate how the relationship between work-family tensions is mediated by the country context. In the first step of our analyses, two indicators of tensions between work and family were defined: an indicator of time-based and an indicator of strain-based conflict. In the second step, we estimated ordered logistic regressions of life satisfaction against the indicators of tensions as well as a set of demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the respondent separately for women and men. Our findings clearly illustrate that parents and the employed are more satisfied with life than the childless and the unemployed. Nonetheless, the feeling of an excessive workload either by professional or family obligations leads to a substantial reduction in life satisfaction and women who experience work-family conflict tend to be less satisfied with life than housewives. Given these findings we conclude that policies promoting female employment have to go with policies aiming to reduce family and work tensions.

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Presented in Session 25: Happiness, emotional status and life satisfaction