[Excerpt] Demographic change requires an increase in labour force participation. This applies partic- ularly to those groups which have had relatively low participation rates in the past and those with family obligations such as child rearing or care for the elderly. With many companies already reporting difficulties in recruiting or retaining qualified staff, policies which aim to reconcile work and family life more effectively have become more attractive. Implementing work-life balance policies may therefore be considered a significant factor in the enhance- ment of corporate competitiveness and national prosperity. Governments together with the social partners at the national, sectoral and company levels must tackle the challenge of ensuring the competitiveness of companies while granting women and men equal partici- pation in work and family life.
The European Company Survey on the Reconciliation of Work and Family Life 2010 provides a detailed description and analysis of family-friendly policies implemented by the firms in six European countries – Germany (DE), the United Kingdom (UK), France (FR), Italy (IT), Sweden (SE) and Poland (PL). These six countries account for approximately 63% of the popu- lation and 68% of the GDP in the EU-27.
In autumn 2009, senior executives and the heads of human resources departments in over 5,000 companies were interviewed about how important they consider the issue of family-friendliness and the policies they have offered in their firms. In addition, they reported on their main motives for, and the most significant obstacles to, the implementation of work-life balance measures. The European Company Survey also allows an assessment of the institutional basis, such as statutory provisions, collective and works agreements, on which the policies adopted are ultimately based. It should be borne in mind, however, that the results do not allow a thorough evaluation of specific governmental programmes. Finally, the survey focuses on the impact of the economic crisis on the willingness of companies in the six countries to implement or maintain family-friendly policies.